Saturday, 2 August 2008

The EU Council: Preparatory bodies and information research

Update: For the 2010 list of Council preparatory bodies go here.

In an article by the Public Affairs 2.0 blog that rightly complains about the lack of transparency of the official EU Council website - especially if you are looking for particular documents - I have found the following document issued on 8 July 2008:
Looking at that list you are reminded of how much is going on behind the scenes in the European Union and especially in the Council. Only the first seven committees on that list are set up by the Treaties. Consequently, anyone trying to understand how the Council is working just by reading the Treaties will only get the upper skin of the surface.

And even if you have got this list of all working parties, recent research suggests that it depends on the specific policy area how much influence the different committees and hierarchical levels have for the Council's policy outcome.

In addition to the numerous preparatory bodies, there is a huge list of subject matters, and each item has its own little abbreviation. If you try to use the Council register search for particular issues or documents, first you become overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities and then you are confused by the results of your research that are not represented very clearly.

Finding recent or specific information seems more like gambling than like an act of self-determination.

Why can't it be as simple as the hierarchical presentation of the "Who is Who" of the European Union? There, you click on on an EU institution and, step by step, you can climb down the hierarchy latter until you reach the unit you are looking for. The same thing could be done with EU documents, including those of the Council, so that for every level you would easily find a list of relevant documents.

The European Union could only win from making itself more transparent, and presenting information in such a way that every citizen can find the information s/he needs, would be a more than important step. The Council and its preparatory bodies are part of this European polity and we can expect from them that they behave in a way that is appropriate in a democratic society - something that the EU pretends to promote within and beyond its borders...