Tuesday 15 June 2010

European Council 17 June 2010: Van Rompuy’s chance to reform governance

The latest blog entry European Council 17 June 2010: Impetus needed on governance asked the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to improve the standards of information and governance in the interest of citizens, transparency, good governance and democratic participation.

Is this just hopeless idealism in the best of all possible worlds?

Few people seem to mind, anyway.

Actually, few people seem to give a damn about what the heads of state or government are up to at the European Council.

(Not that they have been encouraged, I would say.)

The facts

Let us take a look at the facts, two days ahead of the 17 June 2010 European Council meeting. What advance information is available? You can then judge for yourself.

An annotated draft agenda, dated 7 May 2010, has been published (Council document 9533/10). A few headline issues are briefly mentioned.

There are no background notes since the 25 to 26 March 2010 Spring meeting.

No documents have (as it seems) been submitted to the June European Council, except the annotated draft agenda mentioned above.

Yesterday, the General Affairs Council (GAC) met in Luxembourg to prepare the European Council (document 11021/10). This is all the GAC had to say about the upcoming summit:


The Council examined draft conclusions for the European Council meeting to be held on 17 June, prepared by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, in cooperation with the Spanish presidency and the Commission.

Issues to be addressed by the European Council, as set out in an annotated draft agenda issued in May (doc. 9282/10), include:

– Jobs and growth: adoption of the Europe 2020 strategy;

– G-20: preparation of the Toronto summit;

– Development policy: UN millennium development goals;

– Climate change.

President Van Rompuy is also expected to present an interim report on the work of the task force on economic governance that he chairs, at the request of the European Council, and which has held its first two meetings.

The draft conclusions will be reviewed in the light of the Council's discussion.


We notice that an annotated draft agenda with a different document number than above (and it is dated 4 May), but otherwise we are none the wiser.

The draft conclusions were and remain undisclosed.

No proposals have been published with reasons and underlying documents.

Without issues out in the open and clearly identified, how is informed advance public debate supposed to take place?

Van Rompuy’s chance to reform

According to Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Council, the president Herman Van Rompuy has the power to lead on the annotated draft agenda and the provisional agenda, as well as the issues (preparation and continuity).

This means that, with good will, Van Rompuy could establish more open, transparent and inviting practices by improving on past behaviour.

Even if the heads of state or government stopped short of rising to the standards of clear proposals and reasons as in other public bodies, agendas and background notes could be developed to name each issue individually, explain the context for each, as well as refer and link to the relevant proposals and reports in much greater detail than before.

Citizens, transparency, good governance and democratic participation would win.

Where are the drawbacks, if any?

Ralf Grahn


  1. Van Rompuy has been surprisingly ready to advance new proposals and new institutional norms so hopefully he will push for transparency, especially as this increased activity heightens the need for more publically available information.

    It's a bit disheartening that the E.Council President seems to have more vision and policy ideas than the Commission President, who's accountable to Parliament.

  2. Eurocentric,

    Van Rompuy was cited as less than enthusiastic about transparency, when he spoke in London.

    However, if he or other people involved started to think about how European Council/Council communications look for the recipients, they would perhaps want to do something about ingrained habits.

    The European Council is no longer a cosy fireside chat, but the most important official institution in a union of 500 million people.

    The fun thing is - for once - that much can be done without treaty change or even new secondary legislation.

    It is a situation of 'just do it'.


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