Wednesday, 31 October 2007

EU Council on transparency

Transparency is seen as the main link between the leaders and the citizens of the European Union, not only in the Reform Treaty or Lisbon Treaty (more exactly the EU Treaty and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Let us look at present arrangements.

An ever closer union among the peoples of Europe and the principle of citizenship of the Union are unthinkable without a right to receive information and to participate, although the political rights are still in their infancy.

The right of access to documents has been enshrined in Article 255 of the EC Treaty and general principles elaborated in Regulation (1049/2001/EG), with additional internal rules for the different institutions.

There has been some political pressure to open closed doors, at least ajar.

In June 2006 the European Council, which is the main authority including treaty change (intergovernmental conference), agreed on an overall policy on transparency “which further opens up the work of the Council by making all co-decision debates in the Council public”.

Although the treaties are international, intergovernmental accords, they are much more significant than any secondary legislative acts they authorise.

Therefore, there should be no objection to using principles agreed on for ordinary legislation to be used as guidance for the basic norms of the Union, especially regarding the Council.

The main objective of the overall policy on transparency is found at the beginning of the conclusions: “With a view to further increasing openness, transparency and accountability, the European Council agrees on the following measures aiming at a stronger involvement of citizens in the work of the Union”.

Even if the conclusions called it an overall policy on transparency, their main thrust was on public debates in the Council. Still, in addition to the general aim to increase openness and accountability, the conclusions include other guiding principles relevant to the handling of atypical legal acts like the basic treaties:

“The incoming Presidency is invited, together with the General Secretariat of the Council, to develop new means of giving more publicity to public deliberations, in particular through the Council’s web site and mailing list, an easily accessible and constantly updated list of forthcoming debates, appropriate background material, as well as direct communication to target audiences. They will work closely together to provide the media and citizens with an open, rapid and technically advanced communication service.”

Information on the Council web site and appropriate background material as well as an open, rapid, constantly updated and technically advanced communication service look like a prescription for the Council on how to handle the publishing of the Lisbon Treaty in a comprehensible form and in a timely manner.

***

There are no documents in the European Union with more relevance for 490 million people than the basic treaties.

There is only one possible conclusion regarding the citizens of the Union and their possibilities to understand and debate the amending treaties:

The Council of the European Union has to consolidate the Lisbon Treaty at once and to publish the complete consolidated versions instantly on its web site in all the official languages of the Union.


Ralf Grahn


Source:

General Secretariat of the Council of the EU: Information sheet: An overall policy on transparency; Brussels, 16 June 2006; http://www.consilium.europa.eu