EU: Ombudsman (1997)
How the Council switched on Statewatch's complaints
On 26 March 1997 the EU Council of Ministers rejected a request by the European Ombudsman to respond to six complaints lodged by Statewatch's editor, Tony Bunyan, on access to documents (see Statewatch, vol 6 no 6 & vol 7 nos 2 & 3). By 20 June the Council had made a U-turn and sent its comments on the complaints to the Ombudsman.
The issue dividing the Council of Ministers in March was whether the European Ombudsman was empowered to investigate complaints concerning justice and home affairs - the intergovernmental "third pillar" of the EU. Six governments voted in favour of replying to the Ombudsman: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden but Nine voted against: France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Italy. Spain, Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg.
On 9 April the European Ombudsman replied asserting that the complaints had been declared admissible under the statute governing his duties and called again on the Council of Ministers to respond.
The Council's Working Group on General Affairs (the GAG group) held four meetings on 28 April, 26 May, 3 June and 6 June. Their report from the 6 June meeting went to COREPER (the committee of permanent representatives of EU member states) on 12 June and was adopted by the Transport Council on 17 June 1997. The result of the meeting of the GAG group on 6 June shows that the UK and Ireland switched sides to join the six already in favour of responding to the European Ombudsman.
Source: Statewatch Bulletin vol 7 no 4/5
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