Tuesday 15 June 2010

European Council 17 June 2010: Good governance?

The European Council is, under the Lisbon Treaty, an official institution in a union with 500 million people. Actually, it is the most important institution, because of the “impetus” it gives or refuses to give the European Union.

In two days 27 heads of state or government and the president of the Commission meet under the chairmanship of the full time president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. The high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton, participates.

Preparations for the Summer European Council 17 June 2010 have been ongoing since the latest ordinary meeting, almost three months ago.

After the coordinating General Affairs Council yesterday, the president of the European Council drafts the provisional agenda.

Limelight or openness?

Yesterday, 14 June 2010 the General Affairs Council (GAC) prepared the European Council meeting.

The draft conclusions prepared before the GAC are not public. The changes agreed by the GAC are not public. The conclusions will only be made public after the fact, once they have been approved by the European Council. Perhaps it is part of human nature that the national leaders are inclined to steal the limelight.

However, the Lisbon Treaty “marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen”. Every citizen has the right to participate in the democratic life of the union.

These ambitions collide, to the detriment of citizens.

The simple and transparent formula for public information is to publish each proposal with reasons and underlying documents. With issues out in the open, advance public debate, informed or uninformed, is made possible.

Thousands of local, regional and national public bodies all over Europe are able to communicate reasoned proposals every week for all to see.

On the contrary, the traditions of the European Council and the current practices of the Council do little to support the emergence of informed debate about the upcoming issues.

If good governance is not beyond municipal boards and councils, why is it unattainable for the European Union?

Are the (European) Council’s standards a necessity, or would it be possible to do more to enable informed debate and democratic participation?

Ralf Grahn

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