News reports

Transparency news reports in 2020

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.

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.

Council reform

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.

Lobbying transparency

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.

See also the news report digests for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016,  2015 (first quarter, second quarter, and second half), and 2014 (last quarter).

Overview of news reports

January – March

01/01/20// Investigate Europe: Secrets of the Council

29/01/20// Politico: German spy suspect disappears from EU lobbying register

30/01/20// Politico: EU opens internal investigation over German spy suspect

08/02/20// Heidi Hautala: On lobby transparency, Finnish embassy to the EU leads by example: other government representations need to follow

14/02/20// EUObserver: EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

19/02/20// EU Reporter: Commissioner Hogan announces new Transparency package

28/02/20// New Europe: EASME: Temple of Transparency

05/03/20// AccessInfoEurope: Call for Transparency of Frontex

09/03/20// EUObserver: How corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making

27/03/20// Investigate Europe: Unblocking Portugal – the secret votes behind corporate tax transparency

April – June

22/05/20// Politico: EU Influence: Tele-transparency

11/06/20// EUObserver: EU says Orban’s new national poll contains ‘fake news’

12/06/20// CEO: MEPs urge Merkel to boost transparency and tackle privileged access during EU Presidency

12/06/20// Politico: MEPs urge transparency ahead of German Council presidency

12/06/20// Euractiv: Opinion: Weaponizing transparency: Dealing with security risks of Chinese investments

19/06/20// Politico: EU Influence: Transparency talks resume

22/06/20// EUObserver: Online election ad transparency in EU ‘insufficient’

23/06/20// Investigate Europe: EU transparency reforms can’t be left half done

July – September

02/07/20// EUObserver: EU still not pro-actively declaring tobacco meetings

03/07/20// Politico: EU Influence: Tracking MEP transparency

03/07/20// EUObserver: EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

08/07/20// EUObserver: Opinion: Revealed: fossil-fuel lobbying behind EU hydrogen strategy

15/07/20// ECER: Kabinet stuurt totaaloverzicht afspraken EU-informatievoorziening aan parlement (in Dutch)

17/07/20// Politico: EU Influence: Council transparency win

23/07/20// Euractiv: ‘Utmost importance’ for transparency rules on political ads, EU report says

30/07/20// ECER: Raad vergroot transparantie van het wetgevingsproces (in Dutch)

22/09/20// Euractiv: MEPs raise concerns on EU plans for police facial recognition database

22/09/20// Euractiv: MEPs call for transparency in race for COVID vaccine amid rising vaccine hesitancy

30/09/20// RECONNECT blog: Transparency in EU Trade Policy

October – December

30/09/20// EUObserver: Celebrate with us. EUobserver’s 20 years of independent EU news

08/10/20// EUObserver: Opinion: The EU Commission rule-of-law report: wrong in so many ways

08/10/20// Euronews: Opinion: Portugal believes in justice and transparency. The European Council does too

08/10/20// EUObserver: EU warns online platforms to do more on coronavirus fake news

19/10/20// EUObserver: Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

26/10/20// Euractiv: Transparency in the race for a COVID vaccine

06/11/20// EUObserver: Transparency fight hones in on releasing EU text messages

30/11/20// Investigate Europe: Michael Roth, German Minister of State for Europe: ‘We are committed to making more of the work in the Council public’

30/11/20// Investigate Europe: Emilio De Capitani, former head of unit at the Public Liberties Committee: ‘Informal meetings are part of the legislative process and therefore must be public’

02/12/20// Politico: Shot in the dark: Commission under fire for lack of vaccine transparency

02/12/20// EUObserver: Frontex takes transparency activists to EU court

02/12/20// Investigate Europe: Emily O’Reilly, EU Ombudsman: ‘The Council should record the member states’ positions’

03/12/20// Euractiv: No ‘ministry of truth’, EU vows at democracy action plan launch

04/12/20// EUObserver: EU Commission plans sanctions on disinformation

07/12/20// Politico: Czech PM Babiš faces long road after EU audit

07/12/20// Open Democracy: Behind closed doors: secret deals in the Council of the EU

08/12/20// Politico: EU lobby register falls short of transparency demands

08/12/20// Investigate Europe: Pierre Sellal, France’s former Permanent Representative to the EU: ‘You should not ask each delegation to strictly record its position’

09/12/20// EUObserver: ‘Major shortcomings’ in new EU lobby register, says NGO

16/12/20// Investigate Europe: Interview with Andrea Ripol, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk

17/12/20// CEO: NGOs demand Portuguese EU Presidency puts public interest centre stage

17/12/20// EUObserver: Portuguese EU presidency pressed over transparency

17/12/20// EUObserver: New EU lobbyist register not mandatory, critics say

17/12/20// Politico: Belgian secretary of state accidentally reveals EU vaccine prices

21/12/20// Investigate Europe: Interview with Anne Friel and Jenni Grossmann from ClientEarth