Posts Tagged ‘legislative procedures’

European Ombudsman inquiry criticises Council’s legislative opacity

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly
Photo: European Parliament (via EUObserver.com)

Today European Ombudsman O’Reilly presented the outcomes of her own-initiative inquiry of the transparency of Council preparatory bodies in the negotiation of EU legislative acts. Significantly, the Ombudsman found instances of maladministration, which signifies the strongest sanction her office can provide.

The European Ombudsman’s concludes her inquiry with the observation that the current way in which the legislative procedure in the Council is set out, it is impossible for citizens to have timely access to sufficient information on the general development of legislative dossiers and specific inputs offered by the different member states. The Ombudsman concludes that:

“[T]he Council of the EU – through practices that inhibit the scrutiny of draft EU legislation – undermines citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account. This constitutes maladministration.”

The Ombudsman’s team conducted a detailed inspection and analysis of a number of individual legislative procedures. Among the most important findings deriving from this inquiry are the observations that the Council Secretariat may not proactively disclose documents containing member state positions while legislative decision making is ongoing, that there were inconsistencies in the different working parties’ working methods with regard to documentation, that the Council’s public register is incomplete and “not very user-friendly”, and that the Council wrongly applies a certain automatism in labelling documents ingoing procedures “LIMITE”, which means that they cannot be made directly available to the public.

In response to these shortcomings, the inquiry report offers various recommendations. Most important among these are that the Council update its rules of procedure to reflect standards of good administration, draw up guidelines containing minimum standards for a document trail pertaining to legislative procedures, take steps to reduce the reliance on LIMITE documents to an absolute minimum, and more generally, provide more generous and earlier access to legislative documents.

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AG Opinion in Access Info Europe appeal: the transparency saga continues

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

logoLast week, Advocate General Cruz Villalón delivered his opinion in the Council’s appeal against the General Court’s Access Info Europe judgement of 2011. (For a background to this case, see an earlier post on this website.) AG Cruz Villalón’s opinion, which can be accessed here, marks another move in the longstanding debate about the role of transparency in the Council and, more broadly, in legislative procedures. The AG takes a principled stance in his opinion, which leads to an uncompromising, at times tough attitude towards the arguments put forward by the Council and its supporting intervenors (Czech Republic, Greece, Spain). In paras 59 and 60 of the opinion, the AG brings the crux of the matter down to a single question, which he immediately answers:

Fundamentally, the question at issue is therefore this: does the identity of the Member States submitting ‘amendments’ in a ‘legislative procedure’ constitute information that may be refused under the exception provided for in Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001?

The answer to this question must, in my view, be in the negative.

He then goes on to substantiate this position in the light of transparency’s contribution to the overarching principle of democracy.

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