Madrid, 13 February 2018 – Access Info today welcomed the European Ombudsman recommendation that the Council of the European Union increase transparency of its legislative process in order to guarantee citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account and to participate in the democratic life of the EU.

Two main findings of the Ombudsman’s inquiry into transparency of the Council, to which Access Info submitted a series of proposals in December 2017, are that the Council’s systematic failure to record the names of Member States along with their positions on legislative matters constitutes maladministration, and that there is over-classification of documents as “LIMITE”, which restricts their circulation.

The Ombudsman recommends that the Council systematically record the identity of Member States, including at preparatory stages of legislative procedures.

This recommendation is in line with the case of Council v. Access Info Europe, won by Access Info on 17 October 2013, in which the Court of Justice of the EU established the right of the public to access documents containing the names of Member States putting forward legislative proposals, even at early stages of debate.

It is positive that, following the landmark 2013 Court ruling, the Council now releases documents containing Member State names upon request, but poor record keeping often makes this meaningless and undermines accountability of EU institutions and EU Member states,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

The Ombudsman also called for the development by the Council of clear criteria for using the ‘LIMITE’ status. The current absence of such guidelines is something that had been highlighted by Access Info in its submission as problematic, often resulting in an over-broad classification on documents as LIMITE which severely limits public scrutiny.

Access Info notes that the Council has recently shown itself ready to improve transparency with changes to its website ongoing. On 16 January 2017,  Access Info’s Helen Darbishire was invited to give a talk to Council representatives, which was followed by a discussion on solutions to opening up the legislative process.

It is imperative that the Council take the Ombudsman’s recommendations seriously and act to address deficiencies in transparency, because the secrecy surrounding Council decision making is contributing to a lack of public trust in European Union institutions,” added Darbishire.

The European Ombudsman’s recommendations to the Council on the transparency of its legislative process can be found here.

For more information, please contact:

Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe

Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558

Photo: European Parliament via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)