Sunday 13 June 2010

EU General Affairs Council 14 June 2010 background note

The previous blog entry, EU General Affairs Council 14 June 2010, showed us that the bare bones agenda for a Council meeting, in this case the General Affairs Council (GAC), is far from a rich basis for informed public debate about real issues.

For instance, the words “European Council, Brussels, 17 June 2010” refer to the whole summit: draft conclusions, possible statements and perhaps scores of underlying reports and documents. Europe’s actions to create jobs and growth and to put its public finances in order are only some of the “trifles” the June 17 summit is supposed to lead on, aided by enlightened citizens.

Background notes may be more helpful, although their quality varies. Let us take a look.

The GAC background note presents issues in general terms and without references or links to relevant documents. For people who follow EU affairs, such as the journalists probably intended to be the primary recipients, it can serve as a check-list to tick off various items, but it is pretty worthless as a source of information.

The Council’s standards of governance and its will to communicate are far from impressive in a union in which “decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen”.

About 16:00 local time, the Council is going to hold a public debate on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), for those who are interested in this “innovation” with limited scope.

Other public information

During the Swedish Council presidency, the materials ahead of the meetings were sometimes informative, useful and easy to navigate from generalities to more detailed information. My impression is that the quality has lapsed with Spain at the Council helm, although there have been a few positive exceptions.

Now the Swedish government’s web page on the GAC meeting is as bland as the paper from the Council.

Traditionally, the government of Sweden offers an annotated agenda ahead of each Council meeting (Kommenterad dagordning), naturally in Swedish. Even if cautious and general in tone, the four page note by the Swedish representation in Brussels names a few issues actually being discussed.

The Finnish government published a fairly general press release about the GAC meeting, in Finnish, Swedish and English.


Second order elections, third order public information, fourth order debate and fifth order participation seem to be the stuff the “democratic life of the Union” is made of.

Ralf Grahn

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