Dissertation on EU Council transparency wins Dutch-Flemmish annual dissertation prize

November 2nd, 2018

On 1 November, the Dutch Association for Public Administration awarded Maarten Hillebrandt the Van Poelje Prize for his dissertation entitled Living Transparency. The development of access to documents in the Council of the EU and its democratic implications.

The Van Poelje Prize, which is named after Gerrit Abraham van Poelje, one of the founders of the discipline of publich administration in the Netherlands, is awarded once a year to the best dissertation written in the field of public administration. The jury report commended Hillebrandt’s dissertation for its “very relevant and topical new insights in the variation in transparency in different Council formations, the very rigorous conceptual and empirical work, based on document analysis, interview, and process tracing”. The dissertation is freely downloadable here. Other dissertations on the shortlist were written on co-production of public services (Carola van Eijk, Leiden University) and anti-corruption policy (Hortense Jongen, Maastricht University).

Below, Maarten’s word of thanks upon receiving the Van Poelje Prize is reproduced in English, followed by a Dutch translation.

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Council of EU undergoing full reorientation on transparency question

August 2nd, 2018

On Wednesday 18 July 2018, the committee  of ambassadors of the member states to the EU (Coreper) held an orientational debate about the need for reforms of the Council’s transparency policy, thus Agence Europe reports.

The debate, which appears as the opening move in a further series of discussions about potential changes to the Council’s internal transparency policy, was based on a series of proposals drafted by the Council’s Secretariat. This document discusses possible and necessary changes in the face of new case law and further external pressures.

The proposals include, inter alia, ways to make the legislative process more traceable and ‘readable’, to apply more consistent rules in the drafting of legislative documents, and to centre transparency around “milestones” in the legislative process. Furthermore, it puts forward a plan to ‘normalise’ the publication of member state inputs (statements, proposals for amendments) into legislative debates. Under the current rules, the Council applies a fragmented policy by which member state inputs are sometimes recorded in the official documents, and sometimes not at all. The Council has so far been able to apply this policy since the formal rules do not stipulate how a legislative document is supposed to be drafted.

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Landmark access case requires Parliament to publish legislative negotiation documents fully and immediately

March 29th, 2018

Emilio de Capitani (photo credit: EUD Observatory/YouTube)

In a landmark case delivered on Thursday 22 March, the EU’s General Court requires the European Parliament to publish legislative negotiation documents (known by EU insiders as the “trilogue four-column document”) not only fully, but also immediately.

Case T-540/15 was brought by Emilio de Capitani, who had been refused access to the full negotiation document in ongoing legislative processes in the area of justice and home affairs.

Against the Parliament’s assertion that access to the full document could not be granted while negotiations were under way without jeopardising the legislative process, the Court found that no legal grounds existed in the access to documents act (Regulation 1049/01) to postpone disclosure of the document, as the act states should be the legal default position.

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Workshop on researching EU transparency in Helsinki

March 20th, 2018

On 22-23 March, the TrUE project (short for “Transparency in the EU – From Reaction to Manifesto?”), funded by the Academy of Finland, will host a methodology workshop around the subject of “how to research EU transparency”.

The TrUE project’s research team.

The workshop concentrates on the methodological aspects of the TrUE project. It brings together some of the central researchers active in the field of EU transparency (e.g. prof. dr. Deirdre Curtin, prof. dr. Daniel Naurin, and dr. Maarten Hillebrandt) and the TrUE team (headed by prof. dr. Päivi Leino) to discuss their methodological choices. The workshop is organised in collaboration with the UEF Law School, the European University Institute and the Helsinki Socio-Legal Initiative (HSLI).

The event is open to all. More information about the workshop, and a registration portal, are available through this web page. Further information about the TrUE project can be found here.

European Ombudsman inquiry criticises Council’s legislative opacity

February 13th, 2018

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly
Photo: European Parliament (via EUObserver.com)

Today European Ombudsman O’Reilly presented the outcomes of her own-initiative inquiry of the transparency of Council preparatory bodies in the negotiation of EU legislative acts. Significantly, the Ombudsman found instances of maladministration, which signifies the strongest sanction her office can provide.

The European Ombudsman’s concludes her inquiry with the observation that the current way in which the legislative procedure in the Council is set out, it is impossible for citizens to have timely access to sufficient information on the general development of legislative dossiers and specific inputs offered by the different member states. The Ombudsman concludes that:

“[T]he Council of the EU – through practices that inhibit the scrutiny of draft EU legislation – undermines citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account. This constitutes maladministration.”

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Transparency news reports in 2017

January 16th, 2018

Since September 2014, the Open Government in the EU blog scans English-language online news outlets for news on EU transparency. Please find below the news digest for 2017. Digests of other time periods are searchable via the category “news reports” at the bottom of this post.

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Transparency news reports in 2016

January 16th, 2018

Since September 2014, the Open Government in the EU blog scans English-language online news outlets for news on EU transparency. Please find below the news digest for 2016. Digests of other time periods are searchable via the category “news reports” at the bottom of this post.

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New case note on access to documents case related to the EU’s emissions trade scheme

December 8th, 2017

“On the Administration of Pollution: How Much “Space to Think” May the EU Claim?”

When can an institution plausibly argue that something is decision-making, and not “mere” administration? And more importantly, how does this influence EU bodies’ legitimate claim to a “space to think” that shields them from transparency? In this newly published case note, Maarten Hillebrandt and Liisa Leppävirta argue that the EU courts still have a long way to go to clarify these questions.

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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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