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28th Feb 2021

EU ombudsman asks Tusk for more transparency

  • European Ombudsman O'Reilly has written to Council President Tusk, demanding an answer by March next year (Photo: European Ombudsman)

The EU ombudsman has asked European Council president Donald Tusk to publish information about his meetings with lobbyists.

That would provide citizens with "a more complete picture of who is trying to influence EU decision-making, when and how," Emily O'Reilly said on Monday (18 December).

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In a letter to the council chief, she suggested that Tusk should only meet with representatives who are recorded in the EU transparency register, a database of organisations – companies, associations, and NGOs - attempting to influence the EU legislative process.

The register is intended to increase public trust in the EU decision-making process, and is currently in use by the European Commission and European Parliament, while the council has had observer status since 2014.

A revision of the register is expected for early 2018, after political representatives from the parliament, council and commission agreed on 12 December to begin negotiations.

As a result of that future revision process, the council is expected to join the register, and lobbyists meetings with decision-makers from the three institutions would become conditional on prior registration.

The revision was proposed by the commission in September 2016, as part of a general effort to implement institutions' commitment to transparency.

Within the commission, commissioners and their cabinets are already required to meet only registered interest representatives, and the fact of those meetings are made public.

As for the parliament, the revised European parliament rules of procedure adopted in January 2017 state that "members should adopt the systematic practice of only meeting interest representatives that have registered".

In her letter to Tusk, O'Reilly also asked him whether he could also make public the progress reports on the Leaders' Agenda - the working programme of EU heads of state and government.

"Publishing the progress reports on these discussions would allow citizens to follow European politics in real time and bring greater understanding about the role national leaders play in shaping decisions on vital issues," O'Reilly argued.

The ombudsman's letter follows similar initiatives aimed at opening up the EU decision making process to the public, such as when, in July 2016, O'Reilly called on the three institutions to publish key documents related to the trilogues - the informal negotiations on draft EU laws.

O'Reilly asked for a reply from Tusk by 1 March 2018.

Opinion

Lobbying transparency enhances MEPs' freedom

At a time when citizens expect an unprecedented level of accountability from their elected representatives, senior MEPs use their ‘free mandate’ to justify opposing new lobbying transparency rules.

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