21st Mar 2018

MPs demand Council become more transparent

  • Centeno (l) will receive a set of recommendations on how to improve transparency (Photo: Council of the EU)

Three Dutch MPs will demand more transparency from the Council of the EU – where national governments meet – on Monday (19 February), on behalf of 26 European chambers of parliament.

They will present Mario Centeno, head of the Eurogroup, with a set of recommendations encased in glass – symbolising that they feel the council should move from being a 'black box' to a glass box.

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"Tusk did not have time, but Centeno did," said centre-right Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt when EUobserver asked why the recommendations were not presented to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

Tusk is likely to be busy with the preparations of Friday's summit.

As leader of the informal body of eurozone finance ministers, Centeno is an important figure.

"The Eurogroup is the most opaque of them all," said Omtzigt, who co-authored the paper Opening up closed doors: Making the EU more transparent for its citizens.

The paper lists four recommendations: systematically publishing documents related to legislative deliberations; adopting more specific, detailed rules on those deliberations; formalising informal bodies like the Eurogroup; and reopening talks on the EU's access to documents regulation.

"Transparency is essential to making democracy meaningful. Without transparency, there can be no public space in which citizens, stakeholders and media can deliberate and thus participate in decision-making," the paper said.

"Members of national parliaments have insufficient access to documents and voting records, including informal voting records, to be able to oversee and scrutinize their governments' actions," it added.

Omtzigt will present the recommendations to Centeno with two fellow Dutch MPs – left-wing Renske Leijten and Martin van Rooijen of a senior citizens' party.

The recommendations were laid out in a letter signed on behalf of 26 national parliaments from 20 member states – there are some 41 houses of parliament in the 28 EU member states, since several have bicameral systems.

Support came from all corners of the EU, including some founding member states, as well as central eastern European countries that joined more recently.

Omtzigt noted that if member states were missing it was more because MPs did not have the mandate to commit support, or he had been unable to meet with them.

The Dutch MP had organised the support among members from the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (Cosac).

Time is up

His colleague Leijten said in a press release that it was the first time that national parliaments worked together like this to try and push the council for more transparency.

"The time that the council can ignore its own transparency rules is over," she declared.

Her parliament's attorney last year declared that the council's practice of making documents confidential by default was unlawful.

"The national parliaments are now very clearly demanding more transparency," Leijten added.

The meeting in Brussels with Centeno comes just six days after the European Ombudsman called on the council to increase transparency.

"Her recommendations were exactly in line with what we wanted," said MP Omtzigt.

EU ombudsman asks Tusk for more transparency

Emily O'Reilly wants the European Council president to ask the council to join the transparency register, publish information on meetings with lobbyists and publish more notes on the EU leaders' work.

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

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