Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

EU ministers to open their meetings to public

The EU Council, the member states' decision-making body, has decided to open its doors to parts of its meetings, in a move that has been termed by the European Commission as crucial in regaining the trust of Europe's citizens.

EU member states agreed on Wednesday (21 December) to hold discussions and votes on EU legislation, under the so-called co-decision procedure, in public with immediate effect.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The co-decision procedure refers to legislative areas where EU member states decide over a law proposal by the European Commission, and where the European Parliament also has a full say, including economic, social and environmental legislation.

The move means that citizens and journalists will be able to follow the positions taken by ministers in meetings of the EU council, member states' decision-making body which is seen as a bulwark of EU opaqueness.

Under the new scheme, the highly controversial services directive may be one of the laws to be discussed in public next year, while currently, only a very limited number of deliberations can be followed by the public.

Wednesday's decision does not cover policy areas which fall outside the co-decision procedure, such as most justice and home affairs legislation, nor does it cover non-legislative acts such as decisions on foreign policy.

The move is also restricted to the council’s first deliberations after the European Commission has presented its proposal, as well as its "final" deliberations that take place once the European Parliament has submitted its opinion.

The discussions in between, where compromises are generally hammered out, will remain behind closed doors, but EU ambassadors may still decide, before a ministers meeting, to make these discussions public as well.

The country holding the EU presidency will also be able to propose that the council opens up deliberations on non-legislative issues - covering decisions on how to react to a current event, like bird flue for example - if they involve "important issues affecting the interests of the Union and its citizens".

Video-streaming

Member states indicated in a statement that they intend to take their transparency initiative forward, stating that "The Council will in the future hold more debates in public on important new legislative proposals on items other than those covered by the co-decision procedure".

All public debates and deliberations, as well as public votes, will be broadcast in all languages through video-streaming on the council's internet web site from the summer of 2006, the statement said.

The European Commission welcomed the decision, with one commission official saying "This is a big step towards a European Union which is more transparent and understandable to citizens."

"It is crucial for regaining the trust of citizens in the European Union", the official added, highlighting that council transparency was one of the priorities that the Commission had put forward in its Plan D for democracy, dialogue and debate that Brussels tabled this year.

Open discussions in the EU council have also been championed by the outgoing UK presidency of the EU, which scored a success in the matter just before Austria takes over the helm of the bloc in January.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday to change the rules of procedure of the centre-right European People's Party parliamentary group to allow the suspension of a member party.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us