Archive for the ‘Legal reform’ Category

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

Friday, 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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Members of Dutch parliament present draft European Information Law

Friday, 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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Further development of the EMU – should legitimacy come first or last?

Friday, November 13th, 2015

schrank-castleBy Päivi Leino-Sandberg

The June 2012 European Council adopted a report setting out ‘four essential building blocks’ for the future Economic and Monetary Union (EMU): an integrated financial framework, an integrated budgetary framework, an integrated economic policy framework and, finally, strengthened democratic legitimacy and accountability (1). In its discussions, the European Council stressed that:
Throughout the process, the general objective remains to ensure democratic legitimacy and accountability at the level at which decisions are taken and implemented. Any new steps towards strengthening economic governance will need to be accompanied by further steps towards stronger legitimacy and accountability. (2)
But while the European Council has repeatedly expressed its concern about the legitimacy problems of the EMU, the tools proposed for tackling these problems have remained extremely modest. This trend continues in the recent Five Presidents’ Report adopted in June 2015 (discussed here and here), which again includes a brief concluding section on ‘Democratic Accountability, Legitimacy and Institutional Strengthening’, but manages to discuss the topic without any tangible results. For many readers of the Five Presidents’ Report, it might not be evident that a further centralization of power to EU institutions will automatically bring about greater legitimacy. After all, in many cases the democratic guarantees continue to function best at national level.
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Inch by inch, the Council crawls towards greater transparency

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Non paper April 2015A new internal note reveals renewed efforts by a small group of member states to take Council transparency forward.

By Maarten Hillebrandt

The embattled EU is currently dealing with issues within, beyond, and on its borders all at the same time. Within its borders, the fresh conservative government of prime minister Cameron has made its first steps to arrange a ‘new deal’ for UK membership, while Hungarian first minister Orban insists that it can -and shall- continue a political debate about the death penalty. Outside of its borders, conflicts in a host of neighbouring countries, particularly Ukraine and Syria, are putting the EU’s security policy under pressure. And on the borders, tens of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants are attempting the dangerous Mediterranean sea-crossing hoping to reach Italian -and thereby, European- soil.

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Commission moves towards greater lobbying transparency

Monday, November 24th, 2014

B2371j8CMAAd-pWWithin a month in office, the incoming Juncker Commission announces its first tangible steps to increase disclosure relating to its lobbying contacts.

In an interesting move, Commissioner Timmermans (Better Regulation) two weeks ago circulated an internal note, which was soon leaked to the press, explaining the pending change. The note argued that “while contact with stakeholders is a natural and important part of the work of a member of the Commission, all such contacts should be conducted with transparency and members of the Commission should seek to ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet.”

As a consequence of this line, the 28 members of the Commission will be required to disclose on their websites all contacts with lobbyists as of 1 December. The EUObserver quoted Timmermans saying: “I think we have moved to a situation now where the public says to government ‘show me!’ And we want to show you”.

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Council declassifies TTIP negotiating mandate

Monday, October 13th, 2014

cooperating-governements_usa_regulating_flagsNearly a year and a half after its drafting, on 9 October 2014, the Council declassified and disclose the Commission’s negotiating mandate for the free trade talks with the United States better known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Maarten Hillebrandt

The disclosure comes after much public controversy that accompanied the various rounds of talks that have taken place up until now, in spite of the document being leaked at an early stage. Various MEPs, the European Ombudsman, and outgoing Commissioner for trade De Gucht criticised the Council for keeping it under the fold. In its annual transparency report, the EP renewed its pledge to do all in its power to “ensure that future trade negotiations, and in particular the on-going negotiations with the US […] were more transparent and open for stakeholder involvement” (p. 12). The decision to disclose the document at long last has been met with praise by various actors.

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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.

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A Watershed in the History of European Integration

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

In the 1980s, a committee was set up to deal with the subject of institutional reform. As Ireland was just assuming the presidency (1984), former minister of foreign affairs and senator Jim Dooge was appointed chair of this committee. The Dooge Committee on Institutional Affairs expendiently set out to make a number of recommendations for institutional improvements of the European Community.The Doodge report, which appeared within a few months, laid the foundations for the Single European Act, and after that the Maastricht Treaty, apparently with much of the report’s language being carried over verbatim.  

At the Dooge lecture, professor of European governance Helen Wallace goes back to the committee’s work which “was made to seem as boring as possible” but in her opinion marks a watershed in the history of European integration. She praises the dexterity and expediency of the committee and its chair, but also argues that its working method marked the end of an era. She compares the SEA and Maastricht Treaty with the language andobjectives of more recent European Treaties, and concludes by addressing the UK’s recent stance in the process of European integration. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAng6aga_Qw –MH

New Presidency, New Round of Talks

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The Cyprus presidency has entered the EU transparency battlefield.

In an earlier post on this blog, I commented how the Danish presidency, in a race against the clock in the final weeks of June, failed to find a compromise on the transparency reform dossier that found sufficient support among both the member states and the European Parliament. (The latter having shown, over the years, much assertiveness in the area of what is known among lawyers as constitutional law, and among political scientists as oversight or meta-regulation.) The Danes failed miserably – its draft proposals for either a medium- and a light-version of a reformed Transparency Regulation were torpedoed and were criticised by transparency-friendly parties as a sell-out.

As of 1 July, Cyprus has taken over the presidency. From the early start, the Cypriots have shown a keenness to revive the talks and to start a fresh search for political compromise. A team under the experienced (and nicely-named) Cypriot senior diplomat Dionysis Dionysiou has enbarked on a new reconnaissance mission in bilateral talks to gauge the temperature among the various parties involved, bothinside among the Council members, and outside among the co-legislating EP and groups from civil society.

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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 RTI-rating.org, 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.

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