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Ombudsman calls for ‘blame Brussels’ culture to end

European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, welcomes the European Parliament’s strong vote of support for her recommendations to improve the transparency and accountability of EU national governments’ legislative work in Brussels.

The lack of legislative transparency in the Council has allowed the ‘blame Brussels’ culture to endure for far too long. I hope today’s vote will help convince national governments - in this most important EU election year - to agree to make EU law-making more open, so the public can see who is really taking the decisions,” said Ms O’Reilly.

“This will require a culture change in the Council, away from old-style diplomacy where much is kept hidden, to a more open and democratic way of working. Taking no action would further damage EU democracy, as this crucial part of the EU legislative process is not open to citizens.”

“It would be unthinkable at national level for Ministers not to tell citizens their positions on national legislation, however this is essentially what happens when the same Ministers meet to decide on EU legislation,” said the Ombudsman.

In its report, voted and approved today by a very wide margin, the Parliament endorsed the Ombudsman’s recommendations, which would help Europeans more easily follow EU law-making and highlight the central role national governments have in deciding EU legislation.

Among her recommendations are that EU Member State positions are recorded in meetings of national ambassadors which decide on EU legislation and that only Council documents justifiably restricted are given the LIMITE marking.


The Ombudsman opened an investigation into the transparency of the Council’s legislative work in 2017. Following an analysis of the practices of the Council by inspecting internal Council documents, and taking into account the results of a public consultation, the Ombudsman in 2018 made three Recommendations and six proposals for improving democratic oversight of the process.

As the Council did not reply within the stated deadline, and given the importance of the issue, the Ombudsman decided to ask the European Parliament for support in a Special Report.

There have been only 19 Special Reports from the Ombudsman to Parliament since 1995. Four previous reports have concerned the Council, including one about the importance of the Council legislating in public issued before the Lisbon Treaty.

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For further information about the Ombudsman's media activities, please contact: Ms Honor Mahony, Acting Head of communication, Tel. +32 (0)2 283 47 33.