Tuesday 1 February 2011

Immaculate conception of the European Council 4 February 2011

Ahead of the European Council ”summit” on Friday, 4 February 2011, we looked at the preparatory General Affairs Council (GAC) in the blog post: An energetic and innovative European Council? (29 January 2011).

Yesterday the foreign ministers and the ministers for Europe representing the EU member states laboured to bring us the following conclusions, currently available only in English:

3064th Council meeting General Affairs; Brussels, 31 January 2011 (asiakirja 5640/11)

(I have published some general GAC remarks in Finnish.)

Ensuring follow-up

According to Article 16(6) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the General Affairs Council shall ensure the follow-up of meetings of the meetings of the European Council...

Yesterday's GAC left us with this memorable, elegant and enlightening sentence concerning the follow-up to the December 2010 meeting (page 8):

The Council took stock of the follow-up being given to the European Council's meeting on 16 and 17 December.

No need to burden the public with any explanations, clarifications, document references or links to relevant documents.

St Matthew knew: Neither cast ye your pearls before swine.


Just in passing, let it be known that the Council has provided us with an additional opportunity to ascertain the decisions to be followed in the first place. They have published, in English:

The European Council in 2010 (about 46 pages)

In the introductory part, president Herman Van Rompuy discusses the work of the European Council in 2010. The second part contains the conclusions of the six meetings in 2010, all conveniently in one place. The conclusions of the December meeting duly begin on page 42 for us to read.

The publication is available in Dutch, French and German as well.

Readers of other languages still find the conclusions on the web pages of the (European) Council, as before.


Coordination and preparation are the GAC tasks indicated first in Article 16(6) TEU, so let us turn to the preparatory contribution yesterday: Preparation of the February meeting.

The first sentence of the conclusions of the General Affairs Council admirably bring us 'in medias res' (page 8):

The Council examined the draft conclusions for the European Council meeting to be held in Brussels on 4 February.

If we fast-forward to the concluding sentence, leaving out the chaff in between, we may marvel at:

Revised draft conclusions will be submitted to the European Council.

Despite drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, this is probably as close as you ever get to the miracle of transubstantiation or the immaculate conception in temporal affairs. Miraculously the immaterial draft conclusions turn into revised draft conclusions, unseen by the 'profanum vulgus', untouched by any agent.

Never mind that you would expect the proposals going in to the most important official institution of the European Union to be public knowledge and openly discussed well before the decisions, even guidelines, affecting 501 million people are taken.

Evidently, good governance does not start at the top.

As long as the European Council acts like a summit, the General Affairs Council remains a joke.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Blenderlaw is the enjoyable legal blog with a transnational twist, written by Caronline Bradley.

P.S. 2: I am happy if you want to read my Euroblogs. The internal market and the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020 flagship initiatives) are going to be among the main themes, upstream on Grahnlaw (in English), Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish), as well as downstream on the trilingual Grahnlaw Suomi Finland. We can get acquainted on Facebook and on Twitter @RalfGrahn, too.

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