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


  1. I think they do not want people to be really informed. I know by experience that when someone seats on the chief chair if they think that their proposal can be opposed by people they will always take as an excuse that people are not able to understand it, so they have to impose it. But this is a tricky reasoning that can be summed upo in this lines:
    __I am right
    __They are wrong
    __But they cannot understand that they are wrong, otherwise they would not be wrong and they would have agreed with me
    __So there is no reason to make an effort to explain them things, better to keep them aside
    This attitude of course keep people ignorant and so they really will not understand whats going on and so the chair man can say

    I have a completely different opinion based on this idea by Thomas Jefferson:
    “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.” Letter to William Charles Jarvis (September 28, 1820) http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson

  2. Giacomo, I have continued with a net column on what the Council has said on openness.

    Since there is no document in the European Union more important than the basic treaties, I think they are the ultimate test of transparency: your pessimistic view or a more hopeful one.

    Ralf Grahn


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