Select Committee on European Communities Third Report

APPENDIX 2 (Continued)


Transparency and accountability

...We welcome the steps which the Council has taken in recent years to improve the transparency of its proceedings. In particular the Council's decision to publish the results of votes gives a useful insight into the positions of different Governments and the extent of support for a particular decision.[3] The Council has also provided much fuller briefings to the press before and after Council meetings, and in the United Kingdom there has been fuller consultation and information to Parliament and Parliamentary Committees. However, in our view, the Council needs to go further...(247)

...We welcome the Government's intention to seek to strengthen the presumption in favour of release of Council documents, and we consider that progress on this matter should be a United Kingdom priority at the Conference...(247)


Transparency and accountability

Chapter 10 of the Amsterdam Treaty is concerned with transparency. Article A of the EU Treaty will be amended to read:

"This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer Union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen."

A new article 191a is to be inserted in the EC Treaty. This will provide that:

   "1.  Any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, shall have a right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents..."

General principles and limits will be fixed, subject to the co-decision procedure. Each institution is to elaborate in its rules of procedure specific provisions regarding access to documents. The provisions of Article 191a will apply to both the Second and Third Pillars.

A Declaration on Article 191a(1) will allow a Member State to request the Commission or the Council not to communicate to third parties a document originating from that State without its prior agreement.

With regard to the Council, specific provisions are included in a revised Article 151 of the EC Treaty, which states:

  "For the purpose of applying article 191a (3), the Council shall elaborate in these Rules the conditions under which the public shall have access to Council documents. For the purpose of this paragraph, the Council shall define the cases in which it is to be regarded as acting in its legislative capacity, with a view to allowing greater access to documents in those cases, while at the same time preserving the effectiveness of its decision-making process. In any event, when the Council acts in its legislative capacity, the results of votes and explanations of vote as well as statements in the minutes shall be made public."

3   OJ L 304, 10 December 1993 and C 213/22, 17 August 1995. Back

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