Council working group to hold closed-door round table on decision-making transparency

Confidential informal remote meeting organised by the Portuguese Presidency contrasts with large-scale event organised by the 2019 Finnish Presidency.

A Council working party meeting in 2018.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Council’s so-called Working Party on Information (WPI) will hold an informal video conference which will include a round table on the subject matter of Council decision-making transparency.

The round table, announced in a provisional agenda of the preparatory committee, will see three speakers present their views on the discussion topic of “negotiating mechanisms and transparency orientations: the decision-making process and public interest”.

The speakers are two academics and a senior civil servant.

João Vacas is a practicing lawyer and a visiting professor based at the Institute for Political Studies, Catholic University of Lisbon.

Professor Polonca Kovač is based at the Faculty of Administrative Law and PA, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). In 2018, she co-edited a comparative volume on the law and practice of freedom of information across Europe.

The civil servant is Bastien Brillet, formerly rapporteur-general at the French Committee for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA), today Vice-Director of policy at the Directorate for Legal Affairs at the Central Administration of Social Ministries (France).

The nationality of the chosen speakers appears to be a nod to the incumbent and two successive Council Presidencies.

While Slovenia has over the past years developed a reputation as a Council member favouring the advancement of transparency duties for the Council, this is not the case for Portugal and France. Calls from NGOs on Portugal to improve the Council’s track record on this matter during its time in the office of the Presidency appear to have fallen largely on deaf ear.

The small scale, understated manner of announcement, confidentiality, and timing of the meeting at the very end the Portuguese Presidency stand in contrast to the large-scale event organised by the Finnish Presidency at the beginning of its 2019 stint.

The expert seminar on the future of EU transparency, co-organised by the Finnish Presidency and the University of Helsinki, was held in Brussels in September 2019.

It is not entirely clear what the policy purpose of today’s informal round table is. Given the closed-door nature of the event, it is impossible to attend the event for outsiders. Open Government in the EU blog has therefore filed an access request to learn more about the substance of the meeting.

In any event, the meeting is unlikely to deal in very practical terms with the revision of Regulation 1049/2001. In 2020, the incoming Von Der Leyen Commission scrapped this draft legislative act, which had been on the books for over a decade, from its work programme.

This blog has been revised to reflect the correct day of the WPI round table (Tuesday 29 June 2001).