|Author (Person)||Banks, Martin|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.11, No.36, 13.10.05|
By Martin Banks
The UK presidency of the EU will shortly come forward with proposals to open meetings of the Council of Ministers to the public when it is legislating.
A presidency spokes-person confirmed yesterday (12 October) that changes would be proposed within the next few weeks. Any proposal would be carried if a simple majority, 13 member states, approved it.
The European Ombuds-man Nikiforos Diaman-douros this week urged the Council to "review its refusal to decide to meet publicly whenever it is acting in its legislative capacity".
In a special report presented to the European Parliament on Tuesday (11 October), he said that the Council had given no valid reasons for refusing to meet in public whenever it was acting in its legislative capacity.
In June, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told MEPs that he thought there was a "strong case" for the Council to legislate in public, adding: "Let us consider that under our presidency."
A UK presidency spokesperson said: "The presidency has already made clear its commit-ment to transparency in Council meetings and we are currently exploring ways of achieving this. The plan is to bring forward a proposal shortly after we have first discussed it with our member state colleagues."
UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies said: "It is now up to the UK presidency to put this matter on the agenda of the next General Affairs Council."
The ombudsman's report was, he said, "a damning indictment of the Council's secretive procedures".
The ombudsman's inquiry followed a com-plaint in 2003 from German MEP Elmar Brok that the Council's rules of procedure did not conform to treaty obligations that EU institutions must take decisions as openly as possible.
The Council argued that the degree of openness of its meetings was a political choice made by member states.
Diamandouros disa-greed, saying that it would merely require a change to the Council's own internal rules of procedure to allow the relevant meetings to be held in public.
Member states had backed the idea of meetings being open to the public in the European constitution, still unratified.
A Council official said: "So long as the constitutional treaty has not come into force, there is no obligation on the Council to open up meetings to the public."
Article reports on an initiative by the UK Presidency of the Council that would make Council meetings open to the public. This followed a report by the European Ombudsman who had called for such a move.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Europe|