Sunday 12 April 2009

Examples of law-making in the Council: Measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel

Law-making is very intransparent in the Council of the European Union; getting the preferences of the different actors in the process is very hard and extremely time-consuming.

One problem is that positions put forward by member states are not made public in time, and that the presentation of these documents is not at all citizen-friendly.

Take for example the Council Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel which has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 18 September 2007.

If you wanted to see the opinions of your country on the proposal by the Commission from 6 October 2005, you had to wait until this weekend to find the respective documents published.

I have tried to assemble all those more than 70 documents made public now, so that you do not need to search on your own, just to show what you have "missed" so far.

Member states' comments in November 2005:
Working Party on Internal Fisheries Policies (January/February 2006)
Member states' comments in February 2006:
Member states' positions in June 2006:
COREPER meeting on 15 November 2006:
Compromise proposal 06 February 2007:
Positions in January & February 2007:
In March 2007:
In April 2007:
Input from May 2007:
All these documents have been published only now. I am sure that these are not all documents, and that with a little research I would find a bunch more. And we are just talking about a minor issue - eel - and the situation is much worse for other policy areas and more sensitive topics.

The time it took to put together this blog post is already way to much.

How can you expect any citizens to do this, look for hours for two or three documents that concern the position of its country during a European law-making process, or even to put together the full set of positions of all member states?!

And so far, I haven't analysed a single document. I have just put them together. The next step would be to analyse the individual positions and to see how these figure in the different intermediary documents and in the final regulation. But this would implicate much more research, going well beyond these Council documents.

What I want to say is that we get relevant documents late, we get them in a bad presentation, and we need to enter into an almost scientific research process to understand who got what, which position came through, what was ignored, etc.

And since the regulation is already 1 1/2 years old: Who will involve in such an effort? - No journalist will take the time to do so, and my resources as an individual blogger are way to limited to do this on a regular basis.

In the end, most decision-making within the Council, even if well-documented and finally publicised, will never become truly public and transparent - just because this transparency demands retrospective efforts that the institutional side doesn't want to bear and that the democratic society cannot take on its shoulders alone.


Tanja said...

Just to make a small conspiracy theory: but maybe the states don't want us to follow their decision in a transparent way and when it's time to do it..this would be a real shock for the EU democracy :)))

Ralf Grahn said...


Thank your time and effort to illustrate why the member state - diplomacy paradigm is antithetical to a union close to its citizens.

To put it simply, the Council's daily production of documents in numbers is impressive, but their informational value is more like a black hole.

Citizens are (in principle) usually able to uncover the decisions, after the fact.

Julien Frisch said...

@ Tanja

I agree on the conspiracy thing... ;-)

@ Ralf

I agree that the informational value of many documents produced is low. And I agree that, ex post, the decision can be uncovered by citizens. But if you'd like to understand things more in depth, if you would like to know how a particular decision within the Council finds the daylight, this reality is very disappointing - too disappointing for those of us interested in a transparent democracy.

Lars Raaum said...


I´ve made a small guide on my blog on how to track EU legislation. If you´ve got any comments to improve it, I´d be grateful.