News > EM Germany Board: Transparency makes for democratic legislation; trilogues have the opposite effect

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Bridging EU decision making

EM Germany Board: Transparency makes for democratic legislation; trilogues have the opposite effect

Too many trilogues pose a problem for democracy. Referring to the Lisbon Treaty, which calls for transparent legislation, the EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly launched an investigation into “informal trilogues” in May – and rightly so!

EM Germany has long criticised the fact that more than 80 per cent of EU laws are drawn up in these private meetings between representatives of the European Commission, Council and Parliament. Unlike the standard EU legislative process, in which the first and second readings as well as committee meetings are open to the public, trilogue negotiations between representatives of the European Parliament, Council and Commission take place behind closed doors and are therefore less transparent and participatory. The EM Germany’s infographic “EU Legislation and Trilogues” shows the difference.

With her investigation, the EU Ombudsman is hoping to, among other things, bring about the disclosure of trilogue negotiating protocols – if they are available – and participant lists. Unfortunately, the EU Ombudsman’s proposals to inspect the files of the Institutions involved have apparently been delayed. Instead of being in a position to publish initial results at the end of September, as planned, Emily O’Reilly’s team was repeatedly put off – and now to top it all off finds its mandate being called into question.

The EU Ombudsman has no right to operate in this sphere, European Parliament President Martin Schulz is quoted by Politico Europe as saying in a letter to Emily O’Reilly. Making “substantive choices on the preferable legislative options” remains a prerogative of MEPs and cannot be scrutinised by the Ombudsman, he is reported as writing.

The EM Germany Board asserts the following: the European Parliament President, who has for many years fought for a more democratic EU, should not hide behind technicalities, but rather should stand up for transparency and participation. The European Parliament needs active and structured dialogue in order to fulfil its democratic mandate. Trilogues are no help to this; in fact they are quite the opposite. Trilogues were only intended for use in emergencies. And it is precisely because criticism of their abuse is not just coming from social forces, that there is a danger that legislation via trilogues will further encourage the rampant loss of confidence in Europe.

We therefore look forward to a statement from the European Parliament President and speedy publication of the letter in question.

Background
Unlike the standard EU legislative process, in which the first and second readings as well as committee meetings are open to the public, trilogue negotiations take place behind closed doors and are therefore less transparent and participatory. Among other things, the EU Ombudsman is hoping to bring about the disclosure of trilogue negotiating protocols and participant lists.

Notes
This position reflects the EM Germany’s Position on Better Lawmaking which was agreed at its general assembly.

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