Enquiry about legislative transparency in the Council welcomed by Access Info

Madrid, 14 March 2017 – Access Info Europe today expressed concern over insufficient record keeping in the Council of the EU and welcomed the launch of the European Ombudsman’s strategic enquiry into transparency of one of the EU’s key decision making institutions.

A focus of the Ombudsman’s enquiry is whether the Council is complying with a 2013 judgment of the European Court of Justice,[1] a case won by Access Info Europe in which the Court ruled that the public should have access to the positions of Member States in order to permit participation in legislative processes.

Ongoing holes in Council record keeping, such as the failure to keep minutes or records of meetings containing only broad generalities, are seriously undermining the public’s ability to find out about what national governments are discussing inside the Council,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe.

Access Info has previously noted instances of poor record keeping in the Council whereby requesters are even told that minutes of meetings have not been taken. At least two cases have been identified when the Council has stated minutes of meetings “had not been produced” or “had not been issued.”

Decision making behind closed doors in the Council distorts public perception about who takes decisions in Europe. This makes it harder to identify those responsible for decisions that are unpopular or that potentially violate human rights such decisions about the financial crisis or the EU-Turkey deal on refugees seeking shelter in Europe,” added Darbishire.

Record keeping is an essential element of a ‘good administration’, a fundamental right for all EU citizens under Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

As part of the enquiry, the Ombudsman is also investigating whether there is consistency in the practices between working parties on transparency, the completeness and accessibility of documents on the Council’s document register.

For more information, please contact:

Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
or
Andreas Pavlou, Campaigner and Researcher | Access Info Europe

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

Notes:

[1] Access Info took the Council to court over its refusal to disclose the names of Member States putting forward proposals for reform of the EU’s transparency rules. In the final ruling in favour of transparency in 2013, the Court upheld Access Info Europe’s arguments that the information was essential to be able to participate in Council decision-making processes and to hold the EU to account. You can find more information on the case here.

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

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