12 November, 2010

Budget5 Letter to European Council President Van Rompuy on moral and legal requirement of open, public debate on taxes

The following letter was sent to Mr Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council about public access to discussions inside the European Council on public money.
Schuman Project

11 November 2010

Mr Herman Van Rompuy
President, European Council

Public access to Budgetary draft legislation meetings

Dear President Van Rompuy,
At the European Council press conference on 29 October 2010 in reply to a question about the Budget, citing the Lisbon Treaty Article 15.2 (TFEU) the Commission President, Mr Barroso, replied that ‘I think we should keep full respect of the Lisbon Treaty in all the co-decision procedures.

The treaty says in Article 15.2 (TFEU) The European Parliament shall meet in public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act.

He added that historically 'the European Council has never met in open format.'

In your reply you said: And will not do {so}.

However the European Council is now an institution of the Lisbon Treaty, not an informal arrangement. The closed-door format seems in contradiction with Article 15.1 which says that: In order to promote good governance and ensure the participation of civil society, the Union institutions, bodies and agencies shall conduct their work as openly as possible. Parliament has its debate on the Budget in public. Other articles stress the need for uniform open procedure. How can civil society participate and debate with secrecy in the European Council? Decades of bad financial governance have been aggravated by secrecy.

Public access is the fundament of democracy. It is essential to have open, public sessions of all institutions when it comes to draft legislation on tax and public money. Today is both the time of austerity and of grave suspicions of fraudulent practice in high places. Openness is a moral imperative, as well as a legal requirement.

As confirmed by government leaders, the European Council discussed the budget in detail, (that is ‘considered draft legislation’ ). They did so with the President of the European Parliament and among themselves with the Commission. May I ask for an official reply as to why the meetings of the European Council on public money were shut to the public, television and the press? On what moral and legal basis was it decided that the public and press should be excluded?

Many thanks for your help in this matter.

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