Brussels workshop on the role of confidentiality in international negotiations

January 25th, 2016

On Friday 12 February, CERIM (Maastricht) will host a workshop on ‘The Law and Politics of Confidential EU Negotiations’ at the UM Campus in Brussels.

The workshop is organised by dr. Abazi and dr. Aedriaensen (both CERIM). Central questions that will be asked at this workshop are: Why does the European Union negotiate (part of) its external negotiations in secret? To what extent is secrecy necessary in the context of EU negotiations and what are the consequences in terms of democratic accountability?

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Netherlands takes up the EU Presidency amidst both ambitions and concerns over transparency

January 7th, 2016
Meeting Rutte

Dutch Prime Minister Rutte welcomes Commission President Juncker to Amsterdam, while the other members of the Commission cue up. The welcoming ceremony is one of the rare occasions that the public will be able to view during the Commission’s visit to the Netherlands.

The European Commission will meet the Dutch chambers of parliament behind closed doors, at the latter’s request.

Yesterday, the European Commission arrived in the Netherlands for a series of meetings at the opening of the Dutch EU Presidency that last for the first half of 2016. An opening ceremony, including the taking of the traditional group photo, took place at Amsterdam’s stately Museum of Maritime History.

This official reception however appears to be a rare public occasion during the Commission’s stay in the Netherlands.

Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad today reported that the debate between the Dutch States-General (combining both the lower and the upper houses of parliament) and the European Commission, scheduled to take place today, will take place behind closed doors.

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

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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Paper on transparency in EU intergovernmental institutions

September 23rd, 2015

logoOn Friday 25 September, Open Government in the EU researcher Maarten Hillebrandt, together with dr. Stéphanie Novak (Université Catholique Lille) will present a paper at a workshop on the central role of the European Council in recent EU decision making, held at LUISS Guido Carli (Rome). The paper, which deals with the role of the space to think in the EU’s intergovernmental institutions (the European Council and the Council), is planned to be included in a special issue on the European Council in the Journal of European Integration (editors: prof. Uwe Puetter and prof. Sergio Fabbrini).

Successful Fourth Global Conference on Transparency Research held in Lugano

June 10th, 2015

5491512From 4-6 June, the Fourth Global Conference on Transparency Research was held at the Università dela Svizzera italiana in Lugano. The conference was again a large success. Some 60 papers were presented, while the conference was attended by almost 80 researchers and practitioners from five continents. The organisers were pleased to note the presence of a strong contingent of PhD researchers too, suggesting continuity for the nearby future in the field of government transparency research.

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Inch by inch, the Council crawls towards greater transparency

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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New publication: recent case law impacts on the Council’s ability to negotiate in secrecy

May 25th, 2015
Recent cases at the Court of Justice on Regulation 1049/01 on public access to Parliament, Council and Commission documents set new limits to confidentiality in the Council’s legislative and international negotiations, as Vigjilenca Abazi and Maarten Hillebrandt argue in their recent case note article entitled “The legal limits to confidential negotiations: Recent case law developments in Council transparency: Access Info Europe and In ‘t Veld”, published in the Common Market Law Review.

Coalition of actors criticises Commission’s transparency initiative for falling short

May 12th, 2015

Recent days have seen a wave of criticism against the new Commission’s transparency initiative. 

Maarten Hillebrandt

The recent campaign of lobbying watchdogs and critical EU actors follows after a conference on the topic, organised by EP vice-president Guillaume and a activist coalition called ALTER-EU, was held on 23 April in the EP. The conference focused on the role and functioning of the EU’s lobbying register and the impact of lobbying in the Council.

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No Democracy in the European Union Without Transparency

April 29th, 2015

The EU’s accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents would help strengthen transparency’s supportive role of transparency, guest blogger dr. Miguel Angel Blanes Climent argues.

 

Citizens do not ask the government for measures against corruption or lack of transparency. There are enough. We just want them to be enforced. There is no use in having the most advanced and ambitious standards against corruption and transparency then if they are not implemented or if the means to exercise them do not work because they are desperately slow due to the lack of funds or they are very expensive in terms of time and costs.

We are still missing the most important thing, a sincere political will to be transparent. And this attitude does not always exist. Of course, without the constant pressure of citizenship, the current attitude of authorities, officials or entities managing public funds will never change.

The challenge is served. Citizens should be aware of the importance for their daily lives and the benefits they can obtain if they demand transparency to entities managing public funds: corruption will be reduced and the waste of our money will be avoided.

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Transparency news reports January-March 2015

April 15th, 2015

EU transparency in the news, January – March 2015.

The Open Government in the EU blog keeps a regularly updated overview of news reporting on EU transparency since September 2014. This post contains an overview of reports over the first three months of 2015. News reports are collected through quick scans on Google news and the most relevant websites. While this news scan is in no way exhaustive or fully systematic, it does provide a nice overview of the direction that the transparency debate is taking over a period of months.

During the first quarter-year of 2015, EU transparency news focused predominantly on the (lack of) transparency around the TTIP negotiations and the issue of tax transparency sparked by the LuxLeaks scandal. A further item that continued to be debated in 2015 was the regulation and transparency of lobbying activities. A longlist of news reports is provided below.

Suggestions for additions or current news are warmly welcomed, via the twitter account @MZHillebrandt. –MH

 

See also: news reporting September – December 2014

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