Leden EP roepen Raad van ministers op om vergaderingen openbaar te maken (en)
The Petitions Committee adopted on Thursday an own-initiative report calling on the Council to meet in public. MEPs argued that it was unacceptable for the EU's most important law-making body still to meet behind closed doors. The committee says greater transparency would enable the European Parliament and national parliaments to fulfil their scrutiny role better and help broaden public debate on EU issues.
Following a complaint lodged by MEP Elmar Brok (EPP-ED, DE), the European Ombudsman submitted to the Petitions Committee a special report on the openness of meetings of the Council when it is acting in its legislative capacity. Mr Brok maintained that, under the treaty, decisions in the EU should be taken "as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizens" and he therefore wanted the Council to amend its internal rules to make its meetings open to the public.
In his recommendation, Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros i concluded that the Council had given no valid reason for not agreeing to this request and he urged it to comply. He considered that a refusal could be regarded as a case of "maladministration", the question on which the Ombudsman is empowered to adjudicate.
The Petitions Committee gave its unanimous backing to the Ombudsman's recommendation in a report drafted by David Hammerstein Mintz (Greens/EFA, ES). The committee regards it as "unacceptable that the EU's most important law-making body still meets behind closed doors when acting as legislator". MEPs believe that, since the EU sees itself as a promoter of democratisation and accountability, "the Council should respond to the calls for greater transparency coming from Parliament, civil society and the general public".
The report points out that meetings of European Parliament committees are held in public and states that there is "no logical justification" for the continued disparities between Parliament and Council regarding standards of transparency, particularly in respect of co-decision procedures. MEPs believe these transparency rules should also apply to Coreper, the body of ambassadors permanently representing the Member States at the EU, which prepares Council negotiations.
MEPs argue that good governance in the European Union requires "participation, transparency, accountability, efficiency and cohesion". They believe that holding meetings of legislative bodies in public is also of direct relevance to the efforts of the European Parliament and national parliaments, as representatives of EU citizens, to fulfil their scrutiny role. They regard it as "of the utmost importance" for national parliaments to be able to hold their governments and ministers to account and say they are convinced that holding meetings in public would enhance the legitimacy of the Council's decisions in the eyes of the people as well as promoting and intensifying public debate on European issues.
The Petitions Committee therefore asks the Council to amend its Rules of Procedure and change its working methods so that meetings in which it is acting in its legislative capacity will be open and accessible to the public. The Council should also broadcast its public meetings (including transmitting them on the internet), provide dates and agendas of those meetings in good time and issue official transcripts "in all official languages" of the EU. The Council is also urged to adopt a common approach regarding the implementation of the EU Code of Good Administrative Behaviour which has been adopted by the European Parliament.
MEPs call on the Council Presidency to place this issue on the agenda of the European Council as a matter of priority and to make "a solemn commitment" on 9 May 2006 (Europe Day) to amend immediately the Council's Rules of Procedure and review the regulation on access to documents by the end of this year in agreement with the European Parliament.
On the same topic, see today's press release "Improving transparency of the EU institutions" (link below).
Committee on Petitions
chair : Marcin Libicki (PL) - UEN
Plenary: Strasbourg, April (possibly)