On July 1st, Germany will begin its term of governing the EU Council Presidency. As with every other EU Member State temporarily assuming power in this Presidency for a duration of six months, this term will allow the German government to shape the political priorities of the European Union.
In the light of this, two German lobby watchdogs, Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl, along with a cross-party group of 92 Members of the European Parliament, have written an open letter addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel. The letter urges the upcoming German Presidency to boost transparency in the legislative process of the Council, by publishing all lobby meetings in the Transparency Register to end privileged access to decision-makers.
The letter consists of four demands:
Nina Katzemich, EU campaigner for LobbyControl, one of the initiators of this open letter, says that “[…]the Council of European Union is often the reason why people think that the EU is not transparent. People only find out about the outcome of negotiations and don’t know what their member states have done or said or who has influenced a particular position.” She believes that “it is crucial that the member states don’t hide behind this opaque process anymore.”
MEP Daniel Freund reinforces the argument of the Council of the EU’s lack of transparency and calls on the Germany Presidency to “set an example and ensure that Council decisions are transparent to the public.”
Vicky Cann, researcher and campaigner Corporate Europe Observatory, concludes by offering some prospects on the future if the demands are met by saying that “if the MEPs’ demands are implemented, citizens and civil society will be able to more easily track who is influencing different EU files, and will find it easier to have a say themselves. In the long run, especially if implemented alongside wider measures to tackle corporate capture, we could expect to see the advantage of corporate lobbies reduced with a matching rise in public interest decision-making at the EU level”.
The open letter declares that the Council of the EU has been coined as a “black box”. This assertion has been reinforced by the European Ombudsman, the European Parliament, and civil society organizations, which state that the Council is not transparent enough on its legislative deliberations. The Council of European Union has repeatedly failed to join the transparency register as its homologues in the Commission and Parliament did.