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 Full text 
Thursday, 17 January 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Ombudsman’s strategic inquiry OI/2/2017 on the transparency of legislative discussions in the preparatory bodies of the Council of the EU (short presentation)

  Yana Toom, Rapporteur. – Mr President, first of all I would like to thank the Ombudsman for her work. Almost two years ago, she opened the inquiry on transparency in the Council. She concluded that the current practice in the Council constituted maladministration, especially when it comes to the failure of the Council to register the positions of Member States in the preparatory bodies.

The recommendations she made were very reasonable, but the Council did not answer. Can you imagine? They just did not answer her letter. Therefore, she turned to Parliament to ask for support. During our first meeting on the issue, the Austrian Presidency promised to address the problem, or at least to provide an explanation. But now the Austrian Presidency is over and they never answered either. Hopefully the Romanian Presidency will be different.

Transparency in the Council has been a topic of discussion for 25 years, yet not many things have changed. The small victories in this area, such as access to documents and public deliberations, were pushed for by Parliament and the Ombudsman. This underlines our role in this House as a catalyst for change. While the Council still holds on to the idea that their work is pure diplomacy, the role of the institutions has changed over time. The Council and the Parliament are co—legislators now. Therefore, their practices should be conducted in a similar way.

The Parliament has become more transparent. All committee meetings, as Jo Leinen mentioned just now, are open and all reports, minutes and amendments are available. The positions of absolutely each and every Member are clear. It is therefore a logical step that the same should apply to the Council, and the Coreper meetings in particular. It says clearly in the Treaties that decisions should be taken as close to the citizens as possible and, especially now during these turbulent Brexit times, we have to be open and we have to be as close to people as possible. This means that all institutions have the obligation to be open and transparent. It’s crucial for accountability.

There is an imbalance between the co—legislators as, when the public is unhappy about an outcome, Member States can easily point their finger at Parliament because our decisions are known, but the public does not see that often the outcome is the result of a struggle between the Parliament and the Council. Perhaps a Member State has a very strong position, yet they blame Brussels. This is problematic for Parliament and also for the media and even national parliaments, who are informed too late about the decisions of their governments in the Council, if at all. Sometimes they are just not informed.

These are the points we have focused on in this report. I would like to thank Jo Leinen for his good cooperation in the committee. Finally, I would like to ask the Chamber to support this report and send the message that this House stands for transparent democratic process.

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