Transparency in the EU - From Reaction to Manifesto? (TrUE)

Duration: 2017-2021
Funder: Academy of Finland

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

Maija Dahlberg

Liisa Leppävirta

Marta Maroni

Diliana Stoyanova


Emilia Korkea-aho

Refereed Publications


  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'Transparency as a platform for institutional politics: the case of the Council of the European Union', 5 Politics & Governance 3 (2017), 62-74.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt and Liisa Leppävirta, 'On the Administration of Pollution: How Much "Space to Think" May the EU Claim?', 8 European Journal of Risk Regulation 4 (2017), 791-797.
  • Emilia Korkea-aho and Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Who owns the information held by EU agencies? Weed killers, commercially sensitive information and transparent and participatory governance’, 54 Common Market Law Review, 4 (2017), 1059-1092.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Administering EU development policy: between global commitments and vague accountability structures’, 2 European Papers: A Journal on Law and Integration 2 (2017), 617-648.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, Secrecy, Efficiency, Transparency in EU Negotiations: Conflicting Paradigms?’ 5 Politics and Governance 3 (2017), 6-15.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Accountability dilemmas of regulating financial markets through the European Supervisory Agencies’, in Carol Harlow, Päivi Leino and Giacinto della Cananea (eds.), Research Handbook on EU Administrative Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017), 209-237.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Marise Cremona, ’Is There an Accountability Gap in EU External Relations? Some Initial Conclusions’, 2 European Papers: A Journal on Law and Integration 2 (2017), 699-708.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Deirdre Curtin, ‘In search of transparency for EU law-making: Trilogues on the gusp of dawn’ 54 Common Market Law Review 6 (2017), 1673-1712.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Janne Salminen, ‘A multi-level playing field for policy-making: Does EU economic governance have impact?’, in Claire Kilpatrick, Bruno De Witte and Thomas Beukers (eds.), Constitutional Change Through Euro-Crisis Law (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2017), 68-107.
  • Liisa Leppävirta and Diliana Stoyanove, ‘Access to Information in International Organizations: The EU and the UN’, Jean Monnet Working Papers, 02/2017, The City Law School (2017).


  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'Twenty-five years of access to documents in the Council of the EU: Ever-greater transparency?', 61 Politique européenne 3 (2018), 142-173.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, Book review of L. Rossi and P. Vinagre e Silva: Public Access to Documents in the EU (Oxford: Hart 2017)', 56 Journal of Common Market Studies (2018), 205.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘The Principle of Transparency in EU External Relations Law: Does Diplomatic Secrecy Stand a Chance of Surviving the Age of Twitter?’, in Marise Cremona (ed.), Structural Principles in EU External Relations Law (Hart Publishing, 2018), 201-223.
  • Liisä Leppävirta, 'Book review of Anna-Sara Lind, Jane Reichel and Inger Österdahl (eds.): Transparency in the future – Swedish Openness 250 Years (Ragulka förlag 2017)', Förvaltningsrättslig tidskrift, 2/2018.


  • Maija Dahlberg, ‘Increasing Openness of Court Proceedings - Comparative Study on Public Access to Court Documents of the European Courts’, 132 Tidsskrift for Rettsvitenskap 3-4 (2019), 307–341.
  • Maija Dahlberg and Daniel Wyatt, ‘Is there a public interest in knowing what is going on in society? A comparative study of the European Courts’, 26 Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 5 (2019), 691–712.
  • Maija Dahlberg, ‘Right of Access to Information and Positive Obligations in the European Convention on Human Rights: Yes or No?’, 4 European Human Rights Law Review (2019), 389–402.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt (2019), 'Transparantie in de EU-Raad. Overmijdelijk en onmisbaar? Onverzadelijk en onuitvoerbaar?', 28 Bestuurskunde 1 (2019), 78-88.
  • Stéphanie Novak and Maarten Hillebrandt, 'Analysing the trade-off between transparency and efficiency in the Council of the European Union', Journal of European Public Policy (early view, 2019), 1-19.
  • Ida Koivisto, ‘Transparency, Society and Subjectivity: Critical Perspectives’ Book review, 25 Res Publica 3 (2019), 439-443.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Tuomas Saarenheimo, ’Discretion, Economic Governance and the (New) Political Commission’, in Joana Mendes (ed.), EU Executive Discretion and the Limits of Law (Oxford University Press, 2019), 132-154.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Disruptive Democracy: Keeping EU Citizens in a Box’, in Inge Govare and Sasha Garben (eds.), The Future of Constitutional Democracy in Europe - A Legal Assessment (Hart publishing, accepted/in press, 2019), 295-316.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Public access to ECB documents: are accountability, independence and effectiveness an impossible trinity?’, ECB Legal Conference 2019. Building bridges: central banking law in an interconnected world (In Press, 2019)
  • Daniel Wyatt, 'Is the Commission a ‘Lawmaker’? On the Right of Initiative, Institutional Transparency and Public Participation in Decision-making: ClientEarth', 56 Common Market Law Review 825 (2019), 825-841.
  • Daniel Wyatt, 'Book Review of Vigjilenca Abazi, Official Secrets and Oversight in the European Union: Law and Practices of Classified Information', 44 European Law Review 873 (2019), 873-876.
  • Sam Wrigley and Daniel Wyatt, 'When Data Protection met Access to Documents', 44 European Law Review 789 (2019), 789-808.


  • Vesa Heikkinen, ’The Inadequacy of Liberal Citizenship’, 20 Ennen ja Nyt – Historian tietosanomat 1 (2020), 50-69.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt (co-author), ‘Note on steps to take towards the improvement of the transparency of Council decision making during the upcoming EU Presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany’, Meijers Committee commentary CM2004 (2020)
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, ‘Het Duitse voorzitterschap van de EU-Raad: een kantelpunt voor transparantie van besluitvorming?’, Nederlands Juristenblad (forthcoming, 2020)
  • Maarten Hillebrandt and Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Administrative and judicial oversight of trilogues’, Journal of European Public Policy (forthcoming, 2020)
  • Ida Koivisto, ‘Thinking Inside the Box: The Promise and Boundaries of Transparency in Automated Decision-Making 2020’, Academy of European Law, 1 EUI Working Papers (2020), 1-22.
  • Ida Koivisto, ’Globaalia läpinäkyvyyttä?’ Lakimies (forthcoming, 2020)
  • Daniel Wyatt, 'The Anaemic Existence of the Overriding Public Interest in Disclosure in the EU’s Access to Documents Regime', 21 German Law Journal 4 (2020), 686-701.

Non-refereed publications:

  • Maarten Hillebrandt, Co-author of: Note on the transparency of decision making following the “Seminar on the Future of EU Transparency”, Meijers Committee commentary CM1911 (2019).
  • Marta Maroni and Elda Brogi, ‘Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v. Facebook Ireland Limited: a new layer of neutrality’, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) Blog, (17 October 2019).
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, '10 jaar transparantiehervormingen in de EU, Stuk Rood Vlees', 8 January 2020. Appeared in English translation as ‘The big lesson after ten years of EU transparency reform? You will never get it right’, Open Government in the EU Blog (14 January 2020).
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Herwig Hoffmann, ‘An agenda for transparency in the EU’, European Law Blog, 23 October 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Emilia Korkea-aho,’Is Glyphosate safe? We have the right to know’, TARN blog, 15 December 2017.

Papers/talks presented at international conferences:


  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Emilia Korkea-aho, ‘Who Owns the Information Held by EU Agencies?’, ECPR General Conference 2017, 8-9 September 2017
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ’ Democracy and the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’, Florence, Italy, 24 November 2017.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Right to information in the European Union within diverse legal contexts, e.g. EU Treaties, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights’, Brussels, 20 November 2017.


  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'Twenty-five years of Council transparency: debunking three myths', LINES lunch seminar, University of Leuven, Belgium, 12 February 2018.
  • Vesa Heikkinen,'The Inadequacy of Liberal citizenship', Young scholars’ symposium “Future of Europe”, University of Helsinki, 8 May 2018.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'Beyond legalisation: Understanding the impact of informality on Council transparency', EU Law Seminar, Lund University, Sweden, 18 September 2018.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'A Great Policy that No-One Needs? Understanding the Impact of Informality on Transparency', Netherlands Institute of Government Conference, The Hague, Netherlands, 1 November 2018.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘The Future of Constitutional Democracy in Europe – A Legal Assessment’, College of Europe, Belgium, 15 February 2018.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘In the Shadow of Law: The Politics of Legal Expertise in EU Policy Making’, iCourts Centre of Excellence for International Courts, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 5 June 2018.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, 12 October 2018, ‘Transparency and Efficiency in EU Negotiations – Conflicting paradigms?’, KU Leuven Institute for European law
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, Annual Conference of the Council Legal Service, 23 October 2018, ‘Transparency and Efficiency in EU Negotiations – Conflicting paradigms?’
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg and Ida Koivisto, 'Perspectives on transparency - empirical, theoretical and value based', Stockholm University, Sweden, 20 November 2018.
  • Vesa Heikkinen, 'Giving birth to a political society – A case for citizens vs. experts', Finnish-Swedish PhD Conference on legal reasoning, Lammi, Finland, 7 December 2018.


  • Daniel Wyatt, 'Approximating the EU Institutions’ Attitudes towards Transparency', Trinity College Law Student Colloquium, 9 February 2019.
  • Marta Maroni, 'The right to access the Internet: reconstructing its normative dimension', Nordic PhD Workshop, Department of Law, EUI, 11-12 June 2019.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'EU transparency in times of disinformation', paper presented at the NIG Annual Work Conference, Amsterdam, 7-8 November 2019.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt and Päivi Leino-Sandberg, 'Constitutional transparency watchdogs and the trilogue method', paper presented at the RECONNECT Conference “Transparency in the EU: Mechanisms and Practices”, Lille, 19-20 November 2019.
  • Stéphanie Novak and M. Hillebrandt, 'Limits to transparency: An analysis of the Council’s argumentation in confirmatory applications', paper presented at the the RECONNECT Conference “Transparency in the EU: Mechanisms and Practices”, Lille, 19-20 November 2019.
  • Maarten Hillebrandt, 'EU transparency: damned if you do, damned if you don’t', Utrecht, 6 December 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘The role of national parliaments in the Brexit process’, Department of Law, EUI, 27 March 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg & Emilia Korkea-aho, ’Legal Experts and Policy-making: Changing Roles for the Legal Profession in the EU, University of Maastricht, 8 May 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Making power visible in the EU institutions’, University of Tampere, 5 June 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Rule of Law challenges in the EU’, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs (UPI), Finland, 6 June 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘EU Democratic Deficits? Two challenging views’, Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance, Netherlands, 3 July 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘'Legislative transparency in the EU: from representative to participatory democracy’, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, 4-5 July 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Public access to ECB documents: are accountability, independence and effectiveness an impossible trinity?’, European Central Bank, Germany, 2-3 September 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Administrative and judicial oversight of trilogues’, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands, 18 - 19 September 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Seminar on the future of EU transparency’, EU2019FI conference, Brussels, Belgium, 25 September 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, ‘Who owns the information in EU Agencies?’,Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance Annual Conference 2019, University of Amsterdam, 8 November 2019.
  • Päivi Leino-Sandberg, Key note on ‘The right to information in the EU: improvement or deterioration in the last two years?’, ERA - Academy of European Law, Germany, 21-22 November 2019.


  • Ida Koivisto, ‘Thinking inside the Box? The Promise and Boundaries of Transparency in Automated Decision-Making’, University of Toronto, Centre of Ethics, 25 February 2020
  • Ida Koivisto, ‘The Paradox of Algorithmic Transparency. Let’s get ethical!’, University of Toronto, Centre of Ethics podcast, 13 February 2020

True Seminars


  • TrUE Inauguration seminar, University of Helsinki

    Presentations from participant and collaborators (Carol Harlow (LSE)).


  • TrUE workshop, ‘How to research transparency’, University of Helsinki.

    Presentations from participants and collaborators (Daniel Naurin (UiO), Anne Elizabeth Stie (UiA), Deirdre Curtin (EUI)), 22-23 March 2018.


  • ‘Seminar on the future of EU transparency’, Brussels

    EU2019FI seminar organised by Finland’s Presidency in cooperation with TrUE, 24 September 2019.

Professor Leino-Sandberg chairing one of the panels sessions in Brussels in September 2019


  • TrUE webinar, ‘The Weiss judgment of the Bundesverfassungsgericht of 5 May’, University of Helsinki, 11 May 2020.

    Presentations from participants and collaborators: Massimo Fichera (UH), Nik de Boer, Laurens Ankersmit (UvA), Julian Scholtes, Maciej Krogel (EUI).
  • TrUE webinar, ‘Against transparency’ - Conceptualising the problematic sides of government openness', University of Helsinki, 10-11 September 2020.

    Presentations from participants and collaborators: Päivi Neuvonen (UH), Marlen Heide (Universita della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland), Stéphanie Novak (Ca’Foscari University of Venice, Italy), Alex Ingrams (Leiden University, Netherlands),Ida Koivisto (UH) and Maarten Hillebrandt (UH), Mikkel Flyverbom (Copenhagen Business School), Leopold Ringel (Bielefeld University), Clare Birchall (King’s College), Emannuel Alloa (University of Fribourg).


  • True webinar 'Challenging the European institutions on transparency: Analysing Leino-Sandberg v Parliament and two Ombudsman complaints', University of Helsinki, 18 February 2021.

    Presentations from participants and collaborators: Benjamin Bodson (University of Louvain), Maarten Hillebrandt (UH) and Päivi Leino-Sandberg (UH).