Transparency rapporteurs Omtzigt and Leijten visit Venice Commission
On Thursday 10 October 2019, the Transparency Rapporteurs from the Dutch House of Representatives, Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) and Renske Leijten (SP), paid a working visit to the European Commission for Democracy through Law (also known as the Venice Commission) of the Council of Europe.
They were invited for a meeting with the Enlarged Bureau of the Venice Commission after the House of Representatives had submitted a request for advice to this Commission on 5 June 2019 regarding possible shortcomings and possible improvements in democratic control in the European Union and the Eurozone by the Dutch parliament.
Both rapporteurs were given the opportunity to explain the request for advice. They emphasized that when Members of the Dutch parliament receive information about EU legislation, they cannot hold the Dutch government publicly accountable because the so-called 'limité' documents of the Council of the European Union cannot be discussed in public. They explained that often highly technical texts on European legislation cannot be submitted to third parties for advice. Further, it is not clear how the Dutch government votes in EU gatherings, in particular during informal voting. In addition, there is hardly any democratic control over the Eurogroup, which itself has no internal rules of procedure and is not mentioned in the EU-treaties either. In COSAC, cooperation with other national parliaments takes place: more than 20 chambers of national parliaments sent a letter to the EU-institutions on the importance of transparency of the EU Council. Experiences have been exchanged on how to scrutinize governments regarding European legislation. While some parliaments do have access to information, they only have discussions with their government behind closed doors. According to the rapporteurs, this does not make the process transparent. The lack of access to draft European legislation by a wider audience, including researchers and journalists, leads to concerns about the quality of legislation, the rapporteurs said.
The plenary session of the Venice Commission decided, on the advice of the Enlarged Bureau, to carry out a comparative study on national mechanisms of parliamentary oversight of EU activities, if there is added value in respect of the already existing scientific material on this topic.