Dear friends, dear interested,
This means a breakthrough for more transparency: In response to my question, Fausto Parente, Executive Director of the European Insurance Supervisory Authority EIOPA, committed yesterday that his authority will make its central decision-making processes more transparent in the future. In particular, it will start disclosing how the representatives of the individual member states voted on decisions relevant to the European legislative process. Until now, the public did not learn which countries had supported or blocked certain decisions. The move by EIOPA was preceded by investigations of the European Ombudswoman, who had demanded exactly this transparency from the authority. EIOPA’s decision will reverberate far beyond the agency. It is now up to the other European agencies to follow suit and to introduce corresponding transparency rules as well. A video of my question to Fausto Parente and his answer can be found here.
The ball was set rolling by journalists from the online portal MLex. After EIOPA’s Board of Supervisors had refused to approve an important regulatory text in July 2020, thus blocking the orderly implementation of the so-called PRIIPs regulation, the journalists demanded that EIOPA disclose the details of the vote. The Board of Supervisors, the authority’s highest decision-making body, is composed of representatives from the European member states. So who has been blocking this decision? In principle, EU institutions are obliged to publish all documents requested by citizens, unless there are substantial reasons for not doing so. In this case, however, EIOPA invoked precisely such reasons and refused to provide the journalists with information. But the journalists did not give up and brought the case before the European Ombudswoman, who opened proceedings in September 2020.
The Ombudswoman’s Preliminary Assessment, which she communicated to EIOPA in January, is clear: The voting behaviour of EU member states in the Board of Supervisors has a direct influence on EU legislation. Making them public is therefore imperative to strengthen the democratic nature of the EU and to allow for public scrutiny. This is a matter of accountability of the democratic system towards its citizens. EIOPA’s arguments against publication are either not substantiated or inferior to the public interest in the information.
It is a welcome development that EIOPA is now responding to these demands. As Fausto Parente made public at yesterday’s hearing before the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Authority had already decided in March to amend its rules of procedure accordingly. In the future, it will publish the voting behaviour of the representatives of the member states whenever decisions with legislative relevance are concerned.
However, this also points to a weakness in yesterday’s announcement by EIOPA. Even in the case of decisions of the agencies without legislative relevance, there is often a considerable public interest in the voting behaviour of the member states. This is the case, for example, when the agencies investigate possible violations of European law by national authorities. In one specific case, the European Banking Authority (EBA) had incomprehensibly closed such proceedings against the Danish and Estonian supervisory authorities in connection with the money laundering scandal at Danske Bank in 2019. Here, too, MLex journalists demanded to see the voting behaviour in the Board of Supervisors and have so far been denied access. It is unacceptable that double standards are being applied here. Transparency in law enforcement is just as important as transparency in legislation. EIOPA should therefore refrain from the planned restriction and introduce general voting transparency.
It is crucial that the other around 40 European agencies now follow suit. While some already practice greater transparency, such as the European Securities and Markets Authority ESMA, others have strong deficiencies with regard to transparency. All agencies should consider how the Ombudswoman’s findings apply to their decision-making processes and adapt their procedures accordingly. I will write to all agencies and urge them to do so.
With green European greetings,
My question to Fausto Parente during his hearing before the ECON Committee on 14 March 2020:
The Preliminary Assesment by the European Ombudswoman of 28 January 2021:
By the way: According to the European Treaties and regulation EG 1049/2001 all European citizens have a right to public access documents of EU institutions.
Requests can be easily be made via the following platform:
A guide on how to use the right to transparency can be found here:
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