End the secretive back-room politics of European ministers

22 October 2017

End the secretive back-room politics of European ministers

The European Ombudsman has had her fill of the fact that the Council of Ministers and the European Council, the bodies directly representing the member states’ governments, are the most secretive. Who knows just what a minister or prime minister says or doesn’t say during his or her meetings in Brussels with counterparts from other member states? My view is that the Ombudsman’s advice must be followed and that there should be more openness. Only then would we know how many truths and untruths our own PM Mark Rutte and his team of ministers tell.

The European Ombudsman, the Irishwoman Emily O’Reilly, is stubborn when it comes to transparency. She abhors conflicts of interest, she abhors half-truths. We work together a lot to counter the secretive influence of lobbyists. So I’ll be happy to take part in the public consultation that she’s started on the Council’s transparency. I myself have another bone to pick with the Council, that it wouldn’t even make public a legal opinion on the transparency register -of all things!- in which lobbyists are obliged to give their details. We must be done once and for all with these backroom politics.

The public is overloaded with information materials about the European Union. As well, they can follow meetings of the Dutch parliament in which ministers or the Prime Minister outline what they plan to do in Brussels. But should the end result not conform to what they hoped or were instructed to do, you get the same story: yes, of course I fought hard, but there was no majority for our position. It’s generally easy for them to get away with this, as no one can monitor how that fight unfolded. No wonder that the public feels itself repeatedly deceived.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Of course diplomats always have to run through things and make preparations, but the European summits and the meetings of the Council of Ministers should be fully public. Not in part, and not only an odd uncontroversial Council of Ministers where nothing much happens, but all of them, and completely. Only then could we see just how our ministers present things, what they say, or, as I fear, how they go along with the others like so many sheep. I’ll be telling the Ombudsman all of this and I know that she’s not one to give up. This is how she herself acts, by the way, simply making everything public. See for yourself on her very informative website. So it can be done.

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