About Open Government in the EU


Would you like to find out more about our work or would you like to contribute to the Open Government in the EU Blog? Please do not hesitate to get in touch and send an email to dr. Maarten Hillebrandt (maarten.hillebrandt[at]helsinki.fi).

About the research group

Utrecht, Amsterdam, Helsinki A research group studying the role of transparency policy in the context of the EU first emerged in Utrecht in 2010, then shifted to Amsterdam, and later to Helsinki, under changing project names and with a shifting composition of researchers.

  • 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. Deirdre Curtin and by prof. 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. Päivi Leino launched the Academy of Finland-funded project Transparency in the EU – From Reaction to Mainfesto. This project runs until 2021.

Since 2010, the researchers involved in these two projects have produced a sizeable corpus of publications that build on research approaches from the fields of law, political science, public administration and other social sciences. Moreover, over the years, the projects have (co-)organised several workshops and conferences, and contributed to numerous meetings and publications both for practitioner and general audiences.

Background to the research topic

Openness: what does it entail?

Openness has long been considered 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 strive not to 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”.

Context: EU government

Gradually, the EU has been developing a set of administrative and legal 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 conducted by the research group, which analyses these developments, traces changes in law and in practice, and seeks to understand their impact on the functioning of actors and institutions within the European democratic order.

Research focus

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 implemented, the dual concepts of transparency and participation must be sufficiently investigated. The research group sets out to do so, based on doctrinal, empirical, and theoretical analyses of the concepts transparency and participation in the context of EU democracy.