EU Council Transparency

Problem

The Council of the European Union is not only one of the most powerful institutional actors in the EU legislative process but also the most opaque institution in Brussels. While in theory the Council is on equal footing with the European Parliament, in practice it often has the final word on legislation and acts much like an upper chamber in other political systems.

The transparency of Council proceedings therefore has wider implications for the transparency of EU decision making. Unfortunately, the Council does not have the best track record of ensuring accountability in its proceedings. A majority of the legislative discussions has moved behind closed doors to informal “trilogue” meetings (negotiations between the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of the EU) where compromises and details are hashed out without any official records ever being released to the public.

This transparency deficit further undermines citizen’s trust in the democratic institutions of the European Union (See 2013 Eurobarometer).

Solution

Engaging the EU Presidencies in the fight against corruption – in order to monitor EU member states’ commitment to the anti-corruption agenda we will leverage the power of the Presidency of the Council of the EU as a vehicle. The rotating Presidency of the Council is responsible for the functioning of the Council of the EU: its function is to chair meetings of the Council, determine its agendas, set a work programme and facilitate dialogue both at Council meetings and with other institutions during the informal “trialogue” meetings.

In the run-up to each Presidency we publish a position paper which outlines key recommendations for each Presidency. At the conclusion of the Presidency we publish a Scorecard which assesses the transparency and accountability of the Presidency, both during its preparation and implementation. In addition the Scorecard focuses on key directives that have a transparency/anti-corruption dimension and evaluates whether and how member states advance these as part of the Council of the EU. The Scorecard is published every six months. The goal is to create awareness of EU member states’ anti-corruption commitments at EU level, which will lead to a greater prioritisation of anti-corruption policies on the Council agenda.

Blog Posts and press releases:

2 December 2013: Tackling corruption in the Council what is your EU presidency up to

30 January 2014: Greek Presidency of the EU time to make corruption walk the plank

17 March 2014: EU Council falls short in the fight against corruption

23 July 2014: Time for the Italian Presidency to tackle corruption and rejuvenate Europe

23 September 2014:  EU Council misses opportunity to close money laundering loopholes

29 September 2014: A tale of two presidencies

2 October 2014: The state of transparency in the Council of the EU

16 March 2015: Assessment of the transparency and anti-corruption efforts of the Italian Presidency

25 March 2015: Latvian Council Presidency: Of baking bread and edging tools

21 October 2015: EU still deadlocked on new European anti-corruption legislation

Position Papers:

Position Paper Lithuania

Position Paper Greece

Position Paper Italy

Position Paper Latvia 

Scorecards:

Lithuanian Scorecard short

Lithuanian Scorecard long

Greek Scorecard short

Greek Scorecard long

Italian Scorecard short

Italian Scorecard long

Latvian Scorecard short

Latvian Scorecard long

Best practices exchange:

Advocating the EU Council: A Civil Society Guide