Posts Tagged ‘council’

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

Monday, 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.

Discussing the space to think in the context of the European Council

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

ceulogo_0_1Does transparency come at the expensive of efficient decision-making? The case for a trade-off between and open and efficient decision-making has certainly been made on innumerable occasions. But whether it is in fact well grounded has, surprisingly, been subjected to rather limited systematic scrutiny.

Political scientist Stéphanie Novak (Université Catholique en Lille) and Open Government in the EU researcher Maarten Hillebrandt (University of Amsterdam) have now begun to systematically explore the case for a non-transparent “space to think” that is systematically invoked by the European Council, and Council – purportedly in order to safeguard the efficiency of their respective decision-making processes. They will present a paper on this topic at a workshop on the centrality of European Council and Council decision-making organised by the Central European University, Budapest.

The European Council has increasingly come to the fore as a constitutionally anomalous yet powerful executive institution of the European Union. This has aroused an increasing interest from the social scientific and legal researchers, among them the researchers of the Open Government in the EU research group, who investigate its transparency and accountability arrangements (see more under publications). -MH

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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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 Euractiv.com. “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.”

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General Court Orders Partial Disclosure in Access to ECHR Accession Negotiation Documents Case

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Law professor offers constitutional arguments for the disclosure of important Council documents. The General Court orders the Council to reconsider the scope of partial disclosure, but only on procedural grounds.

By Maarten Hillebrandt

besselink-leonard-fdr-hoogleraar-fotojeroenoerlemansOn Thursday 12 September, the General Court gave its judgment in Besselink v Council (T-331/11). In January 2011, Leonard Besselink (pictured), then Professor of Constitutional Law at Utrecht University, requested access to the documents relating to the EU’s negotiations to accede to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). In these documents, the Council discussed the strategic and substantive instructions to the Commission, which negotiated the accession on the EU’s behalf. The final draft of this draft accession treaty is currently going through the process of ratification. However, the Council refused access to the documents in which it instructed the Commission, on the basis of Article 4(1), third indent, of Regulation 1049/2001 on public access to EU documents. This article states that access must be refused where disclosure would undermine the public interest with regard to international relations.  (more…)

Hearing in Appeal Access Info Europe Case Sees Parties Putting Forward Their Views About Transparency in Process

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The Council of the European Union defends its appeal in Luxembourg.  On Thursday 21 February, the litigating parties in the Access Info Europe case appeal convened at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg for a hearing. This marks the next step in this case, since the the Council contested the General Court’s ruling by bringing an appeal.

The GC’s 2012 judgement in Access Info Europe caused a stir by affirming the NGO’s assertion that citizens need to be able to attribute policy positions to member states in order to participate meaningfully in European democracy. The practice by the Council to disclose arguments put forward without revealing their originating member states had been in place for some years before AIE challenged it. It is seen by the Council as an acceptable compromise between the requirements of democratic participation and those of effective decision-making. Ironically, Access Info Europe was in the process of mapping member state positions in the reform of the access to documents regulation for a report that it was writing, when it stumbled upon this practice.

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Former Council Spokesman on emergence of EU transparency

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

What did the first years of Council transparency look like?

In this short video clip (in French), former Council spokesman Norbert Schwaiger elaborates on a number of factors that, according to him, contributed to furthering transparency in the Council context.