Secrecy, Efficiency and Transparency in EU Negotiations

Païvi Leino-Sandberg

Secrecy in the area of international relations has been an exceptionally strong paradigm. However, calls for greater transparency have been voiced loudly in recent years. Civil society pressure channelled through the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman has led to embarrassing situations where the Commission and the Council tried to defend the secrecy of documents that have long been in the public domain. In the internal sphere of EU decision-making, the paradigm is the opposite: The Treaties celebrate the principles of openness and transparency in the context of procedures where legislative acts are adopted. The EU institutions however struggle to live up to these principles, and mainly justify their reluctance with reference to the need to guarantee efficient law-making and flexibility.The fundamental trade-off between democratic accountability in the external and internal fields might not be all that different: Efficiency comes at a cost for participation and transparency. This suggest that the formal distinction between the 'internal' and 'external', and the subsequent presumption of either 'secrecy' or 'transparency' is inaccurate, and should be reconsidered.

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