Posts Tagged ‘council’

The Council ‘repairs’ EU transparency rules informally

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

A new publication in the Journal of Common Market Studies by TrUE project researcher Maarten Hillebrandt demonstrates how informality may help explain anomalies in Council transparency policy.

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European journalist collective launches series of publications on Council secrecy

Monday, November 30th, 2020

A collective of European journalists investigating European Union politics has recently launched a investigative study into the secrecy of Council decision making.

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New article debunks common myths around EU Council transparency

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

A recent article in Politique Européenne by Maarten Hillebrandt (Bielefeld University) deals with the question of the development of transparency policy in the Council of the European Union. The development path of transparency in the Council is often regarded by outsiders with scepticism. After all, before 1992, the EU’s most ‘intergovernmental’ institution was known for its pervasive diplomatic secrecy. According to insiders, twenty-five years on, continuous external pressure would have made the Council considerably more transparent, in spite of all its resistances. This characterisation of a transparency-hostile Council overrun by external ‘transparency forces’ may however be too schematic.

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Council of EU undergoing full reorientation on transparency question

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

On Wednesday 18 July 2018, the committee  of ambassadors of the member states to the EU (Coreper) held an orientational debate about the need for reforms of the Council’s transparency policy, thus Agence Europe reports.

The debate, which appears as the opening move in a further series of discussions about potential changes to the Council’s internal transparency policy, was based on a series of proposals drafted by the Council’s Secretariat. This document discusses possible and necessary changes in the face of new case law and further external pressures.

The proposals include, inter alia, ways to make the legislative process more traceable and ‘readable’, to apply more consistent rules in the drafting of legislative documents, and to centre transparency around “milestones” in the legislative process. Furthermore, it puts forward a plan to ‘normalise’ the publication of member state inputs (statements, proposals for amendments) into legislative debates. Under the current rules, the Council applies a fragmented policy by which member state inputs are sometimes recorded in the official documents, and sometimes not at all. The Council has so far been able to apply this policy since the formal rules do not stipulate how a legislative document is supposed to be drafted.

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European Ombudsman inquiry criticises Council’s legislative opacity

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly
Photo: European Parliament (via EUObserver.com)

Today European Ombudsman O’Reilly presented the outcomes of her own-initiative inquiry of the transparency of Council preparatory bodies in the negotiation of EU legislative acts. Significantly, the Ombudsman found instances of maladministration, which signifies the strongest sanction her office can provide.

The European Ombudsman’s concludes her inquiry with the observation that the current way in which the legislative procedure in the Council is set out, it is impossible for citizens to have timely access to sufficient information on the general development of legislative dossiers and specific inputs offered by the different member states. The Ombudsman concludes that:

“[T]he Council of the EU – through practices that inhibit the scrutiny of draft EU legislation – undermines citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account. This constitutes maladministration.”

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Inch by inch, the Council crawls towards greater transparency

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Non paper April 2015A new internal note reveals renewed efforts by a small group of member states to take Council transparency forward.

By Maarten Hillebrandt

The embattled EU is currently dealing with issues within, beyond, and on its borders all at the same time. Within its borders, the fresh conservative government of prime minister Cameron has made its first steps to arrange a ‘new deal’ for UK membership, while Hungarian first minister Orban insists that it can -and shall- continue a political debate about the death penalty. Outside of its borders, conflicts in a host of neighbouring countries, particularly Ukraine and Syria, are putting the EU’s security policy under pressure. And on the borders, tens of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants are attempting the dangerous Mediterranean sea-crossing hoping to reach Italian -and thereby, European- soil.

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New publication: recent case law impacts on the Council’s ability to negotiate in secrecy

Monday, May 25th, 2015
Recent cases at the Court of Justice on Regulation 1049/01 on public access to Parliament, Council and Commission documents set new limits to confidentiality in the Council’s legislative and international negotiations, as Vigjilenca Abazi and Maarten Hillebrandt argue in their recent case note article entitled “The legal limits to confidential negotiations: Recent case law developments in Council transparency: Access Info Europe and In ‘t Veld”, published in the Common Market Law Review.

Discussing the space to think in the context of the European Council

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

ceulogo_0_1Does transparency come at the expensive of efficient decision-making? The case for a trade-off between and open and efficient decision-making has certainly been made on innumerable occasions. But whether it is in fact well grounded has, surprisingly, been subjected to rather limited systematic scrutiny.

Political scientist Stéphanie Novak (Université Catholique en Lille) and Open Government in the EU researcher Maarten Hillebrandt (University of Amsterdam) have now begun to systematically explore the case for a non-transparent “space to think” that is systematically invoked by the European Council, and Council – purportedly in order to safeguard the efficiency of their respective decision-making processes. They will present a paper on this topic at a workshop on the centrality of European Council and Council decision-making organised by the Central European University, Budapest.

The European Council has increasingly come to the fore as a constitutionally anomalous yet powerful executive institution of the European Union. This has aroused an increasing interest from the social scientific and legal researchers, among them the researchers of the Open Government in the EU research group, who investigate its transparency and accountability arrangements (see more under publications). -MH

Council declassifies TTIP negotiating mandate

Monday, October 13th, 2014

cooperating-governements_usa_regulating_flagsNearly a year and a half after its drafting, on 9 October 2014, the Council declassified and disclose the Commission’s negotiating mandate for the free trade talks with the United States better known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Maarten Hillebrandt

The disclosure comes after much public controversy that accompanied the various rounds of talks that have taken place up until now, in spite of the document being leaked at an early stage. Various MEPs, the European Ombudsman, and outgoing Commissioner for trade De Gucht criticised the Council for keeping it under the fold. In its annual transparency report, the EP renewed its pledge to do all in its power to “ensure that future trade negotiations, and in particular the on-going negotiations with the US […] were more transparent and open for stakeholder involvement” (p. 12). The decision to disclose the document at long last has been met with praise by various actors.

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Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP writes op-ed on lack of transparency in the EU

Monday, September 29th, 2014

SONY DSCSophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the Democrats ’66 / ALDE party, laments the apparent lack of EU transparency in an op-ed on European news website Euractiv.com. “Trust in government and politics, both national and European, is at an all-time low, and the key to restoring trust is transparency.”

In her opinion article, likens the EU’s mentality to that of Sir Humphreys, the fictive British Prime Minister’s advisor in BBC hit series Yes, Minister: “Open government, Prime Minister. Freedom of information. We should always tell the press freely and frankly anything that they could easily find out some other way.” According to In ‘t Veld, it is apparent that the EU is developing towards a parliamentary democracy where citizens take ownership, and where transparency and accountability have a central role. The EU’s tradition of diplomatic and secretive decision making, she argues,  is outdated. “Sorry Sir Humphrey, you are a man of the past. Transparency is the future.”

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