Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has welcomed the move by EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to refer a Special Report to the European Parliament regarding the Council’s failures when it comes to the transparency and accountability of its legislative processes.
The Ombudsman’s report on its strategic inquiry on the transparency of the Council legislative process was published in February 2018. The inquiry consisted of an inspection of three legislative files, and aimed to give the Ombudsman a general insight into the Council General Secretariat’s practices.
The Ombudsman’s inquiry found that the Council frequently fails to record the positions of Member States in preparatory bodies. Her main recommendations were for the systematic recording of the political positions of Member States, and to end the widespread practice of restricting access to legislative documents while the decision-making process is ongoing through the so-called LIMITE marking.
Mr Carthy said: “The Council failed to respond to the Ombudsman’s report within the three-month deadline for sending a detailed opinion on her recommendations. As a result she has this week referred a special report to the European Parliament.
“The treaties guarantee the right of public access to documents of the EU institutions, with certain exceptions. And EU case law holds that the relevant Regulation aims to ensure public access to the entire content of Council documents including the political positions taken by Member States.
“In the TAX3 and Panama Papers committee, we have often been frustrated by the refusal of the Council to provide us with access to documents that show the positions that Member States take – but it is even more alarming to see in the Ombudsman’s report that the positions of Member States are frequently not even noted in the Council’s own records. Ms O’Reilly informed us this week that, in her investigations, she found the Council frequently does not record the political positions taken by Member States in the Council as a deliberate tactic to prevent public access to this information.
“In my view, this report appears to indicate that the Council is legally in breach of the Regulation governing public access to documents that says the institutions ‘shall develop good administrative practices’ to facilitate the exercise of this right of access.”
Carthy concluded: “Transparency and accountability of the Council’s legislative processes are vital, and the behaviour identified by Ms O’Reilly is a major contributing factor to the democratic deficit in the EU and the disillusionment of many EU citizens. The political positions taken by Member State governments in Council must be transparent so that they can be accountable to citizens in those Member States.”