New Article on EU Transparency Policy and Interinstitutional Politics

September 25th, 2017

A new article in the latest issue of Governance & Politics deals with the role of transparency in interinstitutional politics. The question of transparency is widely regarded as a thermometer of the relation between the Council of the EU and the public at large. Relatively little attention however has been devoted to the implications of transparency (i.e., access for the general public) for inter-institutional information politics, even when the limited evidence suggests that the connection is considerable. The current publication asks how EU actors use Council transparency as a platform and for what reason. It approaches transparency as a policy that is developed in three arenas: the internal, the external political, and the external judicial arena. The article finds strong evidence in support of the view that the Council’s transparency policy played a central role in EU institutions’ attempt to advance their information ambitions. By strongly engaging with the issue of transparency particularly the European Parliament and its members succeeded at expanding their institutional information basis in an area where their political grip was traditionally at its weakest: the Foreign Affairs Council. Acting in turn as a bargaining chip, a political lever, or an alternative to institutional information, the Foreign Affairs Council’s transparency policy was thus clearly used to advance information agendas of oversight and legislative prerogatives.

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Well into the third act: The way forward on public access to EU documents

September 19th, 2017

Public Access to Documents in the EU, by Leonor Rossi and Patricia Vinagre e Silva, (Oxford/Portland, Hart Publishing, 2017, ISBN 9781509905331); xxxviii + 340pp.; £49.00 hb.

 

Access to EU Documents: A Policy in Three Acts

On 7 February, the EU celebrated a remarkable anniversary. Exactly twenty-five years ago on that day, the Heads of State and Government (HSG) of the European Community’s then twelve Member States took the bold leap forward by signing the Maastricht Treaty. Another leap forward lay tucked away in one of the Treaty’s accompanying texts, even when the Member States’ representatives did not realise it at the time of signing. Declaration 17, attached to the Maastricht Treaty, recognised the positive relation between transparency and democracy, and professed an intention to take steps to advance such transparency. Thus began the First Act of a transformative development called Access to Documents.

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EU Commission announces new transparency measures in response to calls from NGO community

September 15th, 2017

Last Monday, 13 September 2017, EU Commission President Juncker held his annual state of the Union speech in which he laid out his vision and priorities for the EU in the coming period. Calls for and responses to greater transparency are a recurrent theme in discussions on how to improve the EU.

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Court further strengthens EU institutions’ prerogative in determining access to member state-submitted documents

May 3rd, 2017

A new court case further strengthen’s the EU institutions’ hands in granting access to a member state’s documents against its will.

In a case against the Commission, initiated by France, the General Court confirmed that the Commission acted lawfully by granting public access to a series of documents submitted to it by the member state. Although France had justified its request for non-disclosure with the invocation of an exception contained in the EU access to documents law, the Commission judged this exception prima facie not to apply to said documents. France brought a judicial protest against this action, which led to the court’s judgment of April, which goes along with the Commission’s decision to disclose the documents against France’s will.

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Members of Dutch parliament present draft European Information Law

April 21st, 2017

On 17 March, two members of the Dutch parliament presented a draft European Information Law.

The draft law, drawn up by members Marit Maij and Anne Mulder, respective members of the then-ruling coalition parties the Social Democrats and the Liberals, intends to regulate the government’s information duties towards the Dutch parliament where it concerns European Union decision making. Whereas the parliament’s right to be informed already existed under Article 68 of the Dutch constitution, it is up until now dispersed in various pieces of parliamentary proceedings agreed at various points in time. The current draft law for the first time sets out to formalise the government’s information duties, codifying existing agreements and adding new ones. As the explanatory memorandum clarifies, information provided to the parliament should in principle be available to the public and open for public parliamentary debate.

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Upcoming Transparency Events

February 9th, 2017

10 March – Public defence doctoral dissertation Maarten Hillebrandt, “Living Transparency. The development of access to documents in the Council of the EU and its democratic implications”, University of Amsterdam – http://acelg.uva.nl/home/components/acelg-events/acelg-events/content/folder/events/2017/03/defence-hillebrandt.html

16 March – Conference on “Transparency and Secrecy in Foreign Policy”, organized by the University of Agder, the University of Oslo, and the University of Maastricht, Kristiansand (Norway) – http://www.uia.no/en/conferences-and-seminares/transparency-and-secrecy-in-foreign-policy

10-12 August – Mini-track on “Open Government and Policy-Making in the Digital Age” at AMCIS conference, Boston (USA) – https://amcis2017.aisnet.org/submissions/track-descriptions/#toggle-id-6

6-9 September – Section on “Behind Closed Doors Re-Visited: Exploring the Transparency-Accountability-Representation Nexus” at the ECPR Annual Conference, Oslo (Norway) – https://ecpr.eu/Events/SectionDetails.aspx?SectionID=678&EventID=96

Panel on transparency at ECPR annual conference in Oslo

December 14th, 2016

The next ECPR annual conference, held in Oslo 6-9 September, will feature a section on government transparency. Entitled “Behind Closed Doors Re-Visited: Exploring the Transparency-Accountability-Representation Nexus”, the section, chaired by dr. Guri Rosén and Anne Elizabeth Stie, includes panels on (1) the relation between transparency, representation and accountability, (2) transparency in the European Parliament, (3) parliamentary oversight, and (4) expertisation.
The panels now invite papers. More information can be found here: The next ECPR annual conference, held in Oslo 6-9 September, will feature a section on government transparency. Entitled “Behind Closed Doors Re-Visited: Exploring the Transparency-Accountability-Representation Nexus”, the section, chaired by dr. Guri Rosén and Anne Elizabeth Stie, includes panels on (1) the relation between transparency, representation and accountability, (2) transparency in the European Parliament, (3) parliamentary oversight, and (4) expertisation.

The panels now invite papers. More information can be found here: https://ecpr.eu/Events/SectionDetails.aspx?SectionID=678&EventID=96.

Presentations and discussions on EU transparency across North-Western Europe

October 24th, 2016

During the coming months, several presentations and/or discussions on transparency of the European Union are planned in which members of the Open Government project or affiliated researchers take part.

On Wednesday 2 November, the Dutch Parliament’s Standing Committee on European Affairs is to organise a roundtable discussion on the state of EU information provision. Invited as speakers are dr. Gijs Jan Brandsma (UU, Utrecht), prof. Deirdre Curtin (EUI, Florence), Maarten Hillebrandt (University of Bielefeld, Meijers Committee), and prof. Kees Groenendijk (Meijers Committee). Written contributions (one in English, two in Dutch), can be accessed here.

On Tuesday 6 December, dr. Guri Rosén will present and discuss a paper in the CERG seminar (Gothenburg, Sweden) entitled “The secret is out: How to account for the (lack of) transparency in EU external relations?”.

On that same day, Maarten Hillebrandt will hold a presentation on “Understanding the development of access to documents in the Council of the EU”, at the Law and Society seminar of the University of Bielefeld (Germany).

Update on 7 November 2016.

New article explores the relations between secrecy and executive dominance in the EU

October 14th, 2016

The concept of the ‘space to think’ has since long offered an argument to EU decision makers to limit the transparency of decision-making processes. In a new article entitled “‘Integration without transparency’? Reliance on the space to think in the European Council and Council” published in the Journal of European Integration, Maarten Hillebrandt (Bielefeld University) and Stéphanie Novak (UC Lille) explore a tacit but common assumption underlying the EU’s reliance on the ‘space to think’: that it is caused and amplified by the dominance of executive actors.

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Fifth Global Conference on Transparency Research Announced

October 14th, 2016

Limerick logoThe fifth Global Conference on Transparency Research has been announced.

It is due to take place at the University of Limerick, Ireland, from 19-21 June 2017. The organisation this time is in the hands of an tricontinental team of researchers from the Universities of Limerick, Baltimore (USA), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Makerere (Kampala, Uganda).

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