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20 Eur. L.J. 1 (2014)

handle is hein.journals/eurlj20 and id is 1 raw text is: 


European Law Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1, January 2014, pp. 1 20.
C 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA




        Transparency in the EU Council of

        Ministers: An Institutional Analysis


        Maarten Zbigniew Hillebrandt, Deirdre Curtin and

                                 Albert   Meijer*




Abstract:  The development  of access to documents and open meetings provisions by the
Council of Ministers of the European Union shows an interesting pattern: before 1992 no
formal  transparency provisions existed, between 1992  and 2006  formal  transparency
provisions dramatically increased, and since 2006 this increase has come to a halt. This
paper  aims  to enhance  our understanding of  these shifts by conducting a historical
institutional analysis of policy change. As explanatory factors, we consider the prefer-
ences and power  resources of Member   States, as well as external catalysts and social
structures. We  conclude  that the current revision deadlock is more  stable than the
situation before 1992  because now  the pro-transparency  coalition and transparency-
sceptic Council majority have entrenched  their positions. Nevertheless, and in spite of
Council  entrenchment, we expect that Council transparency will continue to develop in
the longer term, under the pressure of increasingly influential outside actors, particularly
the European  Parliament.



I   Introduction

Before  1992, the Council  of Ministers was  known   as a secretive, diplomacy-based,
decision-making  institution.' Sometimes, decisions remained wholly unpublicised, and
citizens had no  right of access to documents.  Since then, a process of change  was
brought  about in the Council's transparency policies, significantly expanding access to
documents   and meetings.2 This resulted in the adoption in 2001 of Regulation 1049 on


* Maarten Zbigniew Hillebrandt, PhD Researcher at the University of Amsterdam (corresponding
  author); Deirdre Curtin, Professor of European law at the University of Amsterdam; Albert Meijer,
  Associate Professor of Public Management at Utrecht University. The authors wish to thank Carol
  Harlow, Steve Peers and Adriejan van Veen for providing useful comments on earlier drafts of this
  paper. All responsibility for remaining errors lies with the authors.
  D.  Stasavage, 'Does Transparency Make a Difference? The Example of the European Council of
  Ministers', in Hood and Heald (eds) Transparency: The Key to Better Governance?, (Oxford University
  Press, 2006), at 166; L.J. Brinkhorst, 'Transparency in the European Union', (1999) 22 Fordham Inter-
  national Law Journal 128, 128, 132; D. Curtin and H. Meijers, 'The Principle of Open Government in
  Schengen and the European Union: Democratic Retrogression?' (1995) 32 Common Market Law Review
  391, 392-393.
  2 D. Curtin, Executive Power of the European Union: Law, Practices, and the Living Constitution (Oxford
  University Press, 2009), at 217.

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