About the Project

Openness: what does it entail?

Openness has long been a hallmark of democratic government. Openness provides the basis for active citizenship and thus is highlighted in pluralistic, discursive and participatory theories of democracy. The basic idea is that government should not conduct its business secretly, behind closed doors but rather out in the open. As US Supreme Court Justice Brandeis once put it: ‘Sunshine is the best of disinfectants.’

Our aim

The fact that openness is highly valued in political theory, however, does not mean that it is taken for granted in political processes, or that it provides for efficient governance or desirable outcomes. Up to date, the dual concepts of transparency and participation have been insufficiently investigated to address such matters in a satisfactory way. The Open Government in the European Union project, based at Utrecht University’s School of Governance (USG) and the Amsterdam Centre of European Law and Governance (ACELG) seeks to address this matter with reference to the European Union.

Gradually, the EU has been developing a set of administrative instruments and practices in several areas, among them transparency and participation in decision-making. With the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the open, participative democratic model of government has gained a prominent place in the EU’s legal framework. The Open Government project seeks to investigate these developments, tracing legal and practical changes and their impact on the functioning of persons and institutions within the European context.


Would you like to find out more about our work, or are you involved in related research or practice fields? Please do not hesitate to get in touch and send an email to Maarten Hillebrandt (info[at]eu-opengovernment.eu).