About Open Government in the EU

Openness: what does it entail?

Openness has long been a hallmark of democratic government. Openness provides the basis for active citizenship and thus is highlighted in pluralistic, discursive and participatory theories of democracy. The basic idea is that government should not conduct its business secretly, behind closed doors but rather out in the open. As US Supreme Court Justice Brandeis once put it: “Sunshine is the best of disinfectants”. More recently, former EU Court Judge Dehousse’s described intransparency as “the best protection one could imagine for bad administration”.

Project(s) and aim

Transparency, participation, democracy – The fact that openness is highly valued in political theory, however, does not mean that it is taken for granted in political processes, or that it provides for efficient governance or desirable outcomes. To establish any of these claims and to identify the most expedient manner in which transparency should be implemente, the dual concepts of transparency and participation must be sufficiently investigated.

The context: EU government – Gradually, the EU has been developing a set of administrative and constitutional instruments and practices to guarantee transparency and participation in decision-making. With the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the open, participative democratic model of government has gained a prominent place in the EU’s legal framework. This website tracks the research work that is carried out by two research projects to analyse these developments, tracing changes in law and in practice, and their impact on the functioning of actors and institutions within the European context.

Utrecht, Amsterdam, Helsinki The Open Government in the European Union project, based at Utrecht University’s School of Governance (USG) and the Amsterdam Centre of European Law and Governance (ACELG), ran from 2010 to 2017 and sought to address the legal and administrative strategies for the promotion of open government in the European Union. The project was led by prof. dr. Deirdre Curtin and by prof. dr. Albert Meijer. In 2017, much of the project’s core research agenda was taken over by the University of Helsinki’s Eric Castrén Institute, where prof. dr. Päivi Leino launched the Academy of Finland-funded project Transparency in the EU – From Reaction to Mainfesto. This project runs until 2021.


Would you like to find out more about our work, or are you involved in related research or practice fields? Please do not hesitate to get in touch and send an email to dr. Maarten Hillebrandt (maarten.hillebrandt[at]helsinki.fi).