Since September 2014, the Open Government in the EU blog scans English-language online news outlets for news on EU transparency. Below, you can find the news digest for 2020.
Central points in news coverage were the use of transparency to fight disinformation, transparency of measures and institutional changes related to the corona pandemic, as well as the German Presidency’s efforts to better regulate the visibility of Council decision making and lobbying activities.
Main themes in 2020
In 2020, the problem of strategic information manipulation and false representation of EU-related information received increasing attention. Media reported how the Commission dubbed information contained in a Hungarian referendum related to EU membership as ‘fake news’, and launched regulatory plans to counter the spread of election disinformation on social media platforms and regarding the corona pandemic.
As the global outbreak of the corona virus got underway from the end of February, increasing attention was not only given to the EU’s handling of containment efforts (particularly as regards its negotiations of vaccine deals with pharmaceutics companies), but also on the consequences of the restrictive measures for the transparency of daily business inside the institutions. In April and July, the Ombudsman opened investigations into the matter.
The Council’s secrecy remains an evergreen in reporting on transparency at EU level. At the beginning of the year pan-European investigative journalist collective Investigate Europe launched its long-term project of coverage of political decision making in the Council, publishing interviews with critical observers including the Ombudsman and NGOs but also a politician and a diplomat inside the institution. Other articles addressed the (lack of) plans to improve transparency of the respective forthcoming German and Portuguese Presidencies.
Like the secrecy surrounding Council decision making, the question of lobbying has been a dragging issue. In 2020, it provided new impetus for critical media coverage concerning the central role of lobby activity and a scandal around a registration in the register. In the middle of the year, interinstitutional negotiations for a mandatory joint lobby register pick up again, more than a year after they were broken off. This resulted in the adoption, at the end of the year, of a long-awaited interinstitutional agreement that was immediately widely criticised for lacking any teeth, including by an academic observer on this blog who argued that the deal “stretches the definition of mandatory beyond normal uses of the word”.
A chronological overview of media reports as tracked by this blog can be found below.
Most recent news reports on EU transparency can also be found on the sidebar to the right of this post.