Trilogues: Again citizens and civil society get half the cake: Institutional "Space to think" (in secret) defended by EU Ombudsman

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Ombudsman calls for more trilogues transparency (Press release, link):

"The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has called on the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission to further increase the transparency of law-making in the EU by publishing key documents related to their informal negotiations known as “trilogues”.

These documents include trilogue dates and summary agendas; the positions of both co-legislators on the Commission’s proposal; and the names of the decision-makers present in trilogue meetings. Documents that track the main stages of the process should be published as soon as possible after the negotiations end....

My proposals also allow for legislators to have the political space they need to negotiate, deliberate and to come to agreement.” (emphasis added)

In the Case Summary (link) and the Ombudsman's Decision (pdf) the Ombudsman concludes that:

"so-called Trilogues, which are informal meetings between representatives of the three institutions involved."


The Ombudsman welcomes the progress so far on improving the transparency of Trilogues; however she proposes that the three institutions make the following documentation and information publicly available: Trilogue dates, initial positions of the three institutions, general Trilogue agendas, “four-column” documents, final compromise texts, Trilogue notes that have been made public, lists of the political decision makers involved and as far as possible a list of other documents tabled during the negotiations. All of these should be made available on an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand joint database. While some documents could be made available while Trilogue negotiations are ongoing, the institutions might consider it necessary in the public interest to provide proactive public access to certain types of documents only after negotiations have ended." [emphasis in original]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"Trilogue meetings between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament with the European Commission are described as "informal meetings" when in reality they are meetings of the EU legislature - they should be held in public like any legislature in a democracy.

The biggest change will be the publication of "four-column documents" stating the current state of play, as already agreed, in the 4th "compromise" column. The opportunity for citizens, civil society and national parliaments to intervene and make their voices heard are non-existent and would only be meaningful if there was a pause in discussions for several months.

The final "compromise text" is set in stone. The Council Presidency sends a formal letter of agreement to the Chair of the relevant parliament Committee. The Committee and the parliament's plenary meeting cannot change a dot or comma. 85% of new measures are agreed through this process - it is a travesty of democracy."

See Statewatch Observatory on FOI/Access to EU documents

Statewatch was amongst the first to criticise secret trilogues: See: Secret trilogues and the democratic deficit(September 2007, pdf) - European Parliament: Abolish 1st [and 2nd] reading secret deals - bring back democracy “warts and all” (pdf) - Proposed Commission changes to Regulation on access to documents fail to meet Lisbon Treaty commitments (pdf)

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