Archive for the ‘Practice’ Category

Incoming Commission Vice-President Timmermans calls for more transparency

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

timmermansnw208In his hearing before the European Parliament yesterday, incoming Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans pledged to introduce a change of culture into the EU’s decision making. This, he argued, includes much broader transparency than has been the case up until now.

Maarten Hillebrandt

The European Parliament, as well as the Brussels-based press corps, responded very positively to the eloquent polyglot, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and one-time Minister of European Affairs. Timmermans answered questions from MEPs in Dutch, English, French, German, and Italian, and didn’t miss a chance to apologise for not speaking Polish and praising Poland for liberating his father’s home town at the end of the Second World War. According to expectation, Timmermans was approved for the position of First Vice-President and Commissioner for Better Regulation, European Human Rights hours after the hearing.

More interestingly for the readers of this blog, Timmermans capitalised on the need for the EU to bring its decision making closer to citizens. (more…)

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP writes op-ed on lack of transparency in the EU

Monday, September 29th, 2014

SONY DSCSophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the Democrats ’66 / ALDE party, laments the apparent lack of EU transparency in an op-ed on European news website “Trust in government and politics, both national and European, is at an all-time low, and the key to restoring trust is transparency.”

In her opinion article, likens the EU’s mentality to that of Sir Humphreys, the fictive British Prime Minister’s advisor in BBC hit series Yes, Minister: “Open government, Prime Minister. Freedom of information. We should always tell the press freely and frankly anything that they could easily find out some other way.” According to In ‘t Veld, it is apparent that the EU is developing towards a parliamentary democracy where citizens take ownership, and where transparency and accountability have a central role. The EU’s tradition of diplomatic and secretive decision making, she argues,  is outdated. “Sorry Sir Humphrey, you are a man of the past. Transparency is the future.”


Transparency of EP committee votes kept off the agenda

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

800px-Fraktionssitzung_Nr_21The EP’s two largest political groupings, the EPP (people’s parties) and S&D (social democrats), are keeping the item of public voting in parliamentary committees off the agenda.

Thus reported the EUObserver last week. The proposal entailed a change to the rules of procedure, and would make it compulsory for parliamentary committee’s final votes in legislative procedures to be digitally recorded and made public. The rationale behind this proposal is, inter alia, that many decision-making procedures are barely publicly debated in parliament before they are voted on. Legislative drafts often become directly subject of interinstitutional negotiations between the EU’s two legislative bodies (the EP and the Council), and are discussed in said parliamentary committees, whose meetings frequently take place behind closed doors. The compulsory vote proposal, which has now been put back into drawer, would restore some of the public accountability that is lost in the informal negotiation process.


Questionnaire on Open Council Meetings, Part II

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

And the results are…


In an earlier blog post, Open Government in the EU  reported that the Council Secretariat had taken the initiative of a questionnaire among Member State delegations concerning attitudes and practices around situations where the Council meets and legislates in the open. Just over a month later, the results of the questionnaire are out.


Secretariat of the Council of the EU Investigates Impact of Open Meetings

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

On Monday 16 September, the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU circulated a questionnaire concerning the effects of open meetings.

In a document that can be found on the Council’s public register, the Secretariat presented the Brussels delegations of the Member States with five questions concerning the way they operate under a regime of public, live-streamed decision-making. It is interested to find out whether the open character of these meetings changes their character and, presumably, their ability to reach decisions.


European Ombudsman Diamandouros prepares for retirement; sounds note of cautionary optimism about future of EU transparency

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

20091116PHT64553_originalYesterday, the European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros, addressed the media about his time in office as the citizen’s advocate of good administration. Nikiforos, 70, of Greek nationality, will retire on 1 October 2013. He said that during his time in office, he “has witnessed the slow erosion of a dominating culture of secrecy among the EU civil services”, that is, however, by no means complete yet.


“EU Ombudsman Blasts EC for Denying Document Access”

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Issues of integration, especially of economic integration, and the attached debate on national sovereignty are ranking high among the EU’s perceived transparency gaps these days.

With integration under pressure, markets and civil society nervously follow the news. The UK’s current lukewarmness towards the European project and considerations to rephrase the terms of its engagement are one good example. This week, the European Ombudsman riposted the Commission for refusing to disclose a report assessing the access of UK citizens to fundamental rights stipulated in the European Charter of Human Rights (ECHR), FOIANet reports. The Ombudsman was quoted stating:

In view of the importance of the documents concerned for the rights of EU citizens, and the fact that the Commission failed to engage constructively with the detailed analysis put forward by the Ombudsman, this constitutes a serious instance of maladministration.

So far, the Commission has not come up with a response to the Ombudsman’s report, to the detriment of the requesting party, the NGO European Citizen Action Service.

 For the full article, click here.

Dalligate tests the European Parliament’s oversight over the Commission

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The following piece was originally posted on the ACELG blog.

By Maarten Hillebrandt

A few weeks ago, the European institutions were shaken by a series of events which, at first sight, could constitute the plot of an institutional thriller. On 16 October, after an investigation into allegations of corruption conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the Maltese Health Commissioner John Dalli was asked to resign. The European watchdog acted on a tip from the tobacco producer Swedish Match, and its Director, Giovanni Kessler, called it a “classic” case of lobbying-turned-into-corruption. Undisclosed sources suggest tobacco interest beyond the Swedish producer may be implicated. When the Head of OLAF’s Supervisory Board, Christiaan Timmermans, stepped down within a week after Dalli’s resignation, this further added to the confusion. As an anonymous MEP stated in the EUobserver “There is a feeling that there is something politically delicate for the Commission in this whole business”.


Top Secret Intelligence in Europe: A Tipping Point in Luxembourg?

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This short article was originally posted on the blog of the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG).

Kadi is back in Luxembourg and with a vengeance! The timing is interesting both for the case itself and more generally for highlighting the use of secret intelligence and evidence to justify detention and other sanctions.

By Deirdre Curtin


Public Consultation on New Dutch FOI Law

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

The European Public Sector Information Platform reports the public consultation round that has opened for the Dutch FOI law.

The Dutch FOIA is generally considered fairly good example of a legal provision allowing citizens access to government information. On, an organisation that developed criteria to compare national FOIAs, the Netherlands scores in the top-middle range, along with countries such as Sweden and the UK, and above others like France and Denmark. Its acronym, “WOB” has caught on in journalist jargon even beyond the Netherlands: “wobbing” has become a verb signifying the filing of a request for access, and is today the name of a news website devoted to transparency across the EU.

However, the Dutch FOIA is considered a first-generation access law. Compared to many other countries, it misses some of the more innovative and technology-driven arrangements such as online registers of documents and proactive disclosures. The last revision of the Dutch took place over twenty years ago, in 1991.