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


General Secretariat of the Council of the EU: Information sheet: An overall policy on transparency; Brussels, 16 June 2006;

Tuesday 30 October 2007

EU transparency test

The Reform Treaty or Lisbon Treaty itself of the European Union is going to be the main test of its democratic principles, especially transparency. It is generally known that it is impossible to get a general picture of the EU if you read only the amendments included in the amending treaties. Therefore, you have to compare the existing treaties with the amending treaties, paragraph by paragraph; a tedious task.

This is putting an unfair burden on interested citizens (and experts). I have called for instant publication on the web of the entire updated treaties, consolidated versions, to be made accessible to every citizen of the EU, in all the official languages.

The main responsibility lies with the Council. The following alternative (if the Commission or the European Parliament does not step in) is publication by the individual governments of the member states. If even that fails, we have to hope for civic-minded action by think-tanks and scientific research institutes.


The new EU Treaty should inspire the Council to do its utmost to satisfy all calls for relevant information:

“Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.” (proposed article 8a paragraph 3)

“The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.” (proposed article 8b paragraph 1)

“The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.” (proposed article 8b parargraph 2)


The same spirit of openness permeates the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:

“In order to promote good governance and ensure the participation of civil society, the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies shall conduct their work as openly as possible.” (proposed article 15 paragraph 1)


We have seen the commendable principles the governments have endorsed on behalf of the European Union and themselves.

Consolidated versions of the new treaties are sorely needed. When do we get them? Who publishes them?

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 28 October 2007

Consolidated treaties needed now!

When the voters in France and the Netherlands spoiled the chance for the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe for all of us EU citizens, they paved the way for still more intergovernmentalism and a treaty reform leading to amendments of the present EU and EC treaties.

Even Jens Peter Bonde has said that he would prefer the Constitutional Treaty to the Reform Treaty (Lisbon Treaty) now approved, if he had to choose between them.

Margot Wallström of the Commission – one of those legendary unelected Brussels officials – has done her utmost to engage the citizens of the European Union, but since the governments of the member states are the ones who have taken over the reform process (and, more than ever, the EU), I address my appeal to them: national governments and their creatures, the intergovernmental conference and the Council:

Give us consolidated versions of the new treaties, now!


Naturally, it is a good thing that the treaty amendments have been published on the Council website. But every one who wants to understand the changes has to compare the amending treaties with the basic treaties in force (not to be found in every home). Even with all the texts, comparison line by line is hard work.

This is an unfair burden on active and interested citizens, when the Council has all the facts, the knowledge needed and an obligation to inform the citizens of the Union.

Instant publication of consolidated versions, presenting the entire treaties including the proposed amendments, would ease the task of many engaged citizens, and it might lead to less misconceptions and distortions in the public debate.

Uninformed citizens are easily misinformed citizens.


If the Council does not see the light, the individual governments should act quickly to inform their respective populations.

Has any government announced that it is going to proceed?


If the Council and the governments shirk their responsibilities, we have to appeal to think-tanks and scientific institutes to step in.

The Real Instituto Elcano has done just that, publishing the first complete consolidation I know of, in Spanish:

There we have an example to emulate!

A while ago I mentioned that the Institut d’Études Européennes of the Université Libre de Bruxelles had published a consolidated version of both treaties in French and the EU Treaty in English, in the form presented by the legal experts. See IEE-ULB: => Research => Publications


Costly and time consuming print publications are less important then timely information on the web.

It is no excuse that the consolidated versions are unofficial; so are all consolidations. It is no excuse to wait until the treaties have been ratified; the time for informed, and perhaps less uninformed, debate is now.

No earthly powers are going to be able to make the Lisbon Treaties easy to read or comprehend, but the public should be given every opportunity to know all there is to know.

Ralf Grahn

EU Lisbon Treaty main points

The Reform Treaty, or Lisbon Treaty, of the European Union is opaque for experts and hopeless for ordinary citizens. The present treaties are amended, so anyone interested in comprehending the whole has to read the present EU and EC treaties alongside the amendments, paragraph by paragraph. The annexed protocols and declarations have reached new levels of disparity and incomprehensibility.

Still, the bravest citizens can access the authentic texts on the web pages of the Council, in all the official languages of the European Union:

The documents approved by the intergovernmental conference have been added, as well as a few technical adjustments. Further technical precisions are possible, if linguistic corrections are made.

The signing ceremony is planned for 13 December 2007 in Lisbon, so the treaty package is probably going to be referred to as the Lisbon Treaty in the future.


Citizens, who are interested, but with less of a masochistic bent, are able to find shorter press releases and comments with the main ingredients of the Reform Treaty.

Here is a small European sample.

In English:

What Lisbon contains; Economist 25.10.2007;

Hugo Brady & Katinka Barysch: The CER guide to the Reform Treaty; October 2007;

Over and done with – at last; European Policy Centre 24.10.2007;

Daniel Gros & Stefano Micossi: Two for the price of one? Centre for European Policy Studies CEPS 22.10.2007;

Jean-Dominique Giuliani : Understanding the European Council in Lisbon and the Reform Treaty; Fondation Robert Schuman;

In Dutch:

Mendeltje van Keulen, Bas Limonard & Jan Rood: De Europese Unie na het Verdrag van Lissabon; Clingendael European Studies Programme 22.10.2007;

In French:

Jean-Dominique Giuliani: Comprendre le Conseil européen de Lisbonne et le Traité réformateur ; Fenêtre sur l’Europe 22.10.2007 ;

Audition de Pervenche Berès, sur le Traité modificatif ; Confrontations Europe 19.10.2007 ;

In Swedish :

Statsminister(n)s upplysning till riksdagen om resultaten från regeringskonferensen 23.10.2007;

Ett nytt fördrag för EU; Regeringskansliet 24.10.2007;

Reformfördragets innehåll; EU-upplysningen 8.10.2007;

EU:s reformfördrag; Regeringskansliet 24.10.2007;

Detta innehåller reformfördraget; Europa-Nytt 22.10.2007;

EU-länderna godkände reformfördraget; Statsrådets kommunikationsenhet 19.10.2007;

In Finnish:

EU:n sopimusuudistus; Eurooppa-tiedotus 26.10.2007;

EU:n uudistussopimus eli Lissabonin sopimus, tietosivu 3/2007; Eurooppa-tiedotus 26.10.2007;

EU-maat hyväksyivät uudistussopimuksen; Valtioneuvoston viestintäyksikkö 19.10.2007;

Pääministerin ilmoitus eduskunnalle hallitustenvälisen konferenssin tuloksista 23.10.2007;


Perhaps you readers would be kind enough to communicate on other useful summaries or publications you have come across.

Ralf Grahn

Thursday 25 October 2007

EU multiannual financial framework

The finances of the European Union are mostly presented according to the relevant treaty provisions on budgetary procedure or give an overview of spending categories. However, the importance of present and future parliamentary features concerning annual budgets is relative, since both resources and expenditure are firmly lodged with the member state governments. The key to this is the multiannual financial framework, a compelling budget for the mid term.

The governments of the member states are driven by their divergent national interests and have to reach a unanimous decision (liberum veto). The substantial result is less than satisfactory for the citizens of the Union. Reaching an outcome more satisfying to the common interest would require a reform of the decision making for the financial framework.

The next financial framework should be in place at the beginning of 2014, so the Reform Treaty should have entered into force by then. The new treaty includes a new chapter “The multiannual finanancial framework” (Article 270a).

Until now, these multiannual budgets have grown in practice (inter-institutional agreements), without treaty basis, but now this practice would be codified. Since the annual budgets shall comply with the multiannual framework, this is the decisive financial document of the European Union (as it is today).

Member state governments retain decision making and veto power:

The Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure, shall adopt a regulation laying down the multiannual financial framework for a period of at least five years. (Five years would coincide with the mandates of the Commission and the European Parliament. The present financial framework encompasses seven years.) The Council shall act unanimously after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall be given by a majority of its component members (Article 270a, paragraph 1 and 2).

What if the European Parliament wanted to force the member state governments (the Council) to reform the budgets for the coming years by rejecting their financial framework?

Where no Council regulation determining a new financial framework has been adopted by the end of the previous financial framework, the ceilings and other provisions corresponding to the last year of that framework shall be extended until such time as that act is adopted (Article 270a, paragraph 4).

In other words, if the European Parliament does not take what it is offered, the following budgets are going to be built on priorities and expenditure levels fixed five or seven years earlier. This rule opens up possibilities for a member state government bent on sabotage, too. Thus, if no new financial framework is in place at the beginning of 2014, the budget then (and later) would reflect the political and negotiating positions of 2005 and 2006.

The “Lisbon Treaty” opens the door to an improved decision making process, although it is hard to believe that the governments would actually be mature enough to make use of this provision:

The European Council may, unanimously, adopt a decision authorising the Council to act by a qualified majority when adopting the regulation laying down the financial framework (Article 270a, paragraph 2).

The member states would still be in charge, but the chances for a somewhat more rational outcome would increase.

How many citizens of the European Union actually believe that 27 governments, unanimously, are going to be mature enough to let go of their veto power before 2014?

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Reforming the EU budget?

In September the Commission of the European Communities launched a public consultation on reforming the EU budget. This review was a part of the decision on the financial framework (long term budget) 2007 to 2013. The Commission’s approach is one of openness and no taboos, says the Communication.

During this seven year period the yearly budget of the European Union is roughly one per cent of the combined gross national income of the member states: agreed payments 1.03 per cent and executed payments 0.98 per cent. In 2008, for a Union with more than 490 people, the commitment appropriations are 131,487 million euros and the payment appropriations 129,481 million euros.

If the advice of independent experts or enlightened citizens of the Union had been followed, three areas of activities would have received significantly more resources a long time ago:

1) EU as a global player, including external action and pre-accession support; presently 5.7 per cent of expenditure.
2) Internal affairs (area of freedom, security and justice as well as citizenship); 1.3 per cent of expenses.
3) Competitiveness (growth and employment); 8.6 per cent of expenditure.

The main part of the resources are allocated to agriculture (natural resources) to the tune of 43 per cent and cohesion (structural funds) with 35.6 per cent. Costs for administration are 5.8 per cent.


Expenditure and revenue of the European Union is based on the multiannual financial framework (presently for seven years). This long term budget was the result of acrimonious negotiations, including the threats of veto power, between the member states governments. National, not common, interests were the driving force.

Once again we witness that structural defects in decision making lead to suboptimal results. In this case, including the 2002 Council decision to safeguard agricultural spending, there is scant hope of significant reform before 2014.

Therefore, the annual budget exercises of the European Union (TEC 268-280) offer very little in the way of new priorities, even if the European Parliament may choose to amend the more marginal outlays defined as not compulsory.

In principle, the following long term budget offers an opportunity to reform, but is the European Union going to be able to seize its chance even then?

If the rules for decision making are not improved, there is little cause for optimism.

Ralf Grahn


Communication from the Commission: Reforming the Budget, Changing Europe; A public consultation paper in view of the 2008/2009 budget review; Brussels, 12.9.2007, SEC(2007) 1188 final

EU Budget – facts and myths; MEMO/07/350

A new Financial Framework for the enlarged Union (2007-2013);

Documents: Multiannual framework;

Mojmir Mrak & Vasja Rant: Financial Perspective 2007-2013: Domination of national interests; EU-Consent EU-Budget Working Paper No. 1; July 2007;

Interinstitutional agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline and sound financial management; OJ 2006/C 139/01;

Deciding the budget;

Improving the budgetary procedure;

Filipa Figueira: The EU Budget – Is this the moment for reform? CEPS Commentary, 15 October 2007;

Europe’s political Economy: The EU budget review: challenges and opportunities; EPC 17 October 2007;

Monday 15 October 2007

Consolidated EU Reform Treaty

Thanks to the IEE institute (Institut d’Études Européennes) of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) we now have consolidated (up-to-date) versions of the draft Reform Treaties of the European Union. They facilitate our reading of the new texts since we do not have to compare every modification by the legal experts with the existing treaties.

There is no date in the texts, but they seem to incorporate all the changes the Foreign Ministers and the Heads of State or Government discuss this week.

Both the amending EU treaty and the treaty on the functioning of the EU (old EC treaty) are available in French.

The amending EU treaty can already be found in English.

The new treaties are never going to be easy to read or comprehend, but the consolidated versions make the task somewhat easier, especially since the amendments have been marked in red type.

The consolidated versions are, of course, unofficial, but still very handy for those who are interested to see for themselves.

Ralf Grahn


IEE – ULB: => Research => Publications

Very latest EU

From 12 until 15 October 2007 I have fed my Finnish blog with some web columns and notices about the European Union. The topics include the EU and globalisation, Turkey’s maturity for EU membership, military assistance within the EU and NATO, the need for the European Union, consolidated versions of the Reform Treaty, ’civil’ members of a military alliance to be and self-inflicted marginalisation.

The adress is:

The postings have the following headings:

EU globalisaatiossa

Turkki ja EU:n laajeneminen

Sanoma euroskeptikoille

EU:n ja Naton turvatakuut

Uudet EU-sopimukset päivitettyinä

Puolustusliiton siviilijäsenet

Arkaaisessa marginaalissa hyvä olla?

Ralf Grahn

Thursday 11 October 2007

October in the European Union

I have been fairly busy on my Finnish Euroblog during the first third of October. My aim has been to deal with topical and fundamental questions from a pan-European perspective, but also commenting on Finnish EU policies. There are 22 new blog posts on the address:

They have the following headings:

Kansa muutosvoimaksi?

Euroopan puolustus ja Nato

Suomen linja pysyy salaisuutena

Euroopan ulkoasiainneuvosto

Mark Leonard

Sotilaallinen mato

Puheet ja teot


Senaatin valinta

Liberum veto

Pohjoinen ja eteläinen Eurooppa

EU:n luokkakuva

Uudistussopimus englanniksi

Uudistussopimus suomeksi

Mitkä turvatakuut?

Stubbin keskustelukutsu

Euroopan sosialistit keskustelevat

Europarlamentaarikot keskustelijoina

”Ultraliberalismi” katosi

Erkki Toivanen EU:n ulkopolitiikasta

Unionimme koko kuva

Nato ja EU liikkeellä

Ralf Grahn