Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

Europe Calling “Black Box Council – New insights into the secret decision-making in the Council” – Mon, 30 Nov 2020, 10-11.30 CET

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Dear friends, dear interested,

On Sunday, Investigate Europe will publish its latest research on the striking intransparency within the European Council. On Monday, Investigate Europe’s senior journalist Harald Schumann will present the findings in our public webinar. 

There is a black box in the centre of European legislation: the Council of the European Union. In the Council, representatives from ministries of the 27 EU member states come together in over 150 working groups to negotiate virtually every decision the EU makes. But despite this central role, EU citizens have virtually no way of knowing who the representatives from the member states are that negotiate on their behalf and which position they take in the negotiations. All key negotiations are behind closed doors. This is in contrast to the EU commission and the European Parliament that over the years have imposed on themselves strict transparency standards.

The EU citizen’s ombudswoman Emily O’Reilly described this intransparency of the Council in very clear words: “The practices that inhibit the scrutiny of draft EU legislation undermine citizens’ right to hold their elected representatives to account.” 

This continued lack of any meaningful transparency is eroding people’s trust in the Council and thus in the EU institutions as a whole and driving them into the arms of eurosceptic populists. It also makes the Council extremely vulnerable to lobby interests, because the citizens have no way of knowing who was influenced how and thus no scrutiny must be feared by the lobbyists and those lobbied. For lobby interests, “convincing” one big member state is often enough to achieve a blocking minority in the Council.

By this, hundreds of strong legislative proposals by Commission and Parliament have been blocked and severely watered-down in the Council over the years, from tax transparency (such as public country-by-country reporting) to strong European refugee policies. To expose this, Investigate Europe has started the research project “Secrets of the Council”. On Sunday, Investigate Europe will publish the next part of this story.

In light of the growing populism and the serious damage to the European values, with the tip of the iceberg being Poland and Hungary, it is high time to finally break the black box that is the Council. In its last days, the German Council Presidency must start an initiative for more transparency.

Thus, we want to discuss this topic with two excellent guests, who will help us shed light on the intransparency of the Council and on the ways to finally overcome it:

Vicky Cann is researcher and campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, an NGO working to expose and challenge priviliged access and influence by corporations and lobby groups on EU policy making. Vicky has long focussed on the lobbying of EU member states.

Harald Schumann is a senior journalist and founding member of Investigative Europe spearheading the research on the “Secrets of the Council” project. For many years, Harald has uncovered the hidden stories behind many political decisions including EU policy during the financial crisis.

The interactive online format allows participants to ask questions and participate in the discussion. The event will be held in English with written interpretation into German. Places are limited so register now and join our event:

Time: Monday, 30 November 2020, 10-11.30am CET

Register right here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/6516063992167/WN_CGII-hGxRBOVkcS6YOFxEw 

We are looking forward to a lively and interesting discussion with you.

With European greetings,

Sven Giegold