Thursday 10 December 2009

European Council 10 to 11 December 2009

Thursday 10 and Friday 11 December 2009, the European Council will convene in Brussels, the last summit under the Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union, but the first under its new Rules of Procedure.

Some proclaimed that the Lisbon Treaty ushered in a new era for an EU, “in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen” (Article 1 TEU), and that “(t)he functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy”.

Openness and representative democracy in secret, without (public) votes

The expectations concerning transparency and representative democracy (as understood by most people) are somewhat tempered by the new Rules of Procedure of the European Council (OJEU 2.12.2009 L 315/51):

“Meetings of the European Council shall not be public.” Article 4(3).

“Except where the Treaties provide otherwise, decisions of the European Council shall be taken by consensus.” Article 6(1), reiterating Article 15(4) TEU.

“In cases where, in accordance with the Treaties, the European Council adopts a decision, the European Council may [not shall] decide, in accordance with the voting arrangement applicable for the adoption of that decision, to make public the results of votes, as well as the statements in its minutes and the items in those minutes relating to the adoption of that decision.” Article 10(1).

“Without prejudice to the provisions on public access to documents, the deliberations of the European Council shall be covered by the obligation of professional secrecy, except insofar as the European Council decides otherwise.” Article 11, first subparagraph.

In other words, openness and representative democracy will be practiced in secret, under the obligation of professional secrecy, as a rule without votes, and the exceptional votes just possibly made public.

The heads of state or government have national – not EU-wide – mandates.

Is our European Union open and democratic? Is it our union, or theirs?

Ralf Grahn

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