Transparency in the Council: How and to what Extent Has the European Ombudsman Rendered the Council More Transparent?

Nikos Vogiatzis

The European Ombudsman is generally considered one of the most prominent EU actors promoting transparency and access to documents. Under Article 228 TFEU, she has a mandate to supervise maladministration in the activities of the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies; in this context, cases having transparency as their subject matter (requests for information, access to documents, among others) generally constitute the highest percentage of opened inquiries across the years. That said, transparency cases against the Council (own-initiative inquiries or investigations after the submission of a complaint) have been one of the most challenging areas for the Ombudsman, given the occasional unwillingness of this institution to collaborate. Evidence of this tension is the Council's recent position on the Ombudsman's own-initiative inquiry concerning the 'trilogues'. Besides, it should be noted that various CJEU cases on the application and interpretation of Regulation 1049 concern the Council. In this context, the paper will assess the achievements of the office therein, as well as the limitations inherent in the Ombudsman's role. To do this, the Ombudsman's work in transparency and openness concerning the Council will be presented in two parts: first, the proactive initiatives (including own-initiative inquiries or the adoption of the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour) and, second, the reactive contribution (namely decisions further to a submission of a complaint).

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