Trans­par­ency in the EU - From Re­ac­tion to Mani­festo?

Funded by the Academy of Finland, 2017 – 2021

The EU Treaties create a clear presumption for transparency and access to information which is assumed to lead to increased citizen participation. In reality, opposition seems to exist. The project aims to break down the practices assigned to ‘transparency’, in particular in regard to ‘participation’ and ‘efficiency’ in the EU. It will critically investigate the promise invested in transparency both on theoretical (what does the nexus between transparency and participation imply?) and practical level (does it work as it should? Is it changing?). This main objective is tackled from four different

1) What Does the EU Think Transparency is? The project will investigate on how the EU institutions understand the role of transparency in legitimate governance. How does it relate to the globalized narrative of good governance? How did it change from reaction to a manifesto? How are transparency and participation linked with the institutional
politics of decision-making and political accountability? Does the democratic deficit of the EU affect domestic constitutional arrangements of transparency and democracy?

2) Does Transparency Undermine Efficiency? What does the EU promise? Are there double standards in regard to transparency? The project will undertake a systematic legal analysis and critique of a range of arguments, constructions and doctrines that the EU institutions may resort to when seeking to justify limitations to the rights of access. What do the current accountability mechanisms deliver?

3) What is the Meaning of Legality? To what extent is transparency a legal concept? The project will investigate the question of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ law. Boosted by the 2001 Commission White Paper on Governance and the 2010 Lisbon Strategy, ‘soft law’ is present in nearly every EU policy. Whilst the principles of openness and transparency also apply to informal instruments (such as guidelines, comments and notices), their meaning in creating transparency as well as being subject to it remains elusive.

4) Do Transparency Practices Work? Does access to documents exist in practice? The project proposes an empirical approach to the questions relating to democratic decisionmaking in the EU. So called action research relies on a continuous interaction with EU institutions agencies and NGOs with the aim of influencing their practices in a positive
manner. This approach is also adopted to enrich the societal impact of legal scholarship.

Through its comprehensive makeup, the project contributes to operationalising and strengthening the fundamental objectives of the Lisbon Treaty as it attempts to make decision-making in the EU “as open as possible”. The project will challenge the current understanding of the limits of the ‘possible’. In other words, the project engages into the immanent critique of the EU and its mission. By doing so, it attempts to increase its institutional self-understanding and comprehensibility to the citizens.

Team members:
Päivi Leino-Sandberg
Ida Koivisto
Maarten Hillebrandt
Päivi Neuvonen
Vesa Heikkinen
Daniel Wyatt

Emilia Korkea-aho