Behind closed doors

Some say too many laws are being passed in the EU without proper public debate.

A record number of laws at the European Union headquarters in Brussels are now being deliberated in secret behind closed doors, causing some to question how democratic and representative the EU law-making process is, according to a recent EUobserver investigation as reported by the Express.

The investigation comes at a time when the EU is facing a popularity crisis with voters who feel that laws that sometimes have a great impact on their lives are decided by unelected officials at meetings to which voters are not invited.

Typically, laws are drawn up by the EU’s technocrats, under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker, who then pass them along for debate to the 750 elected parliamentarians and to the EU Council, made up of ministers and heads of governments.

In 2004, half of the laws passed went on to a second reading, allowing for greater public challenge and debate, but not a single one did so in 2016. Furthermore, the number of controversial “trilogue” type decisions, by which compromises on key laws are negotiated between the three institutions the parliament, commission and council behind closed doors, seems high: 230 in 2015 and 144 in 2016.

Some observers describe the development as “astonishing” and claim to be “alarmed,” especially in the euro-sceptic group. “We have the short-cutting of the democratic process, almost going to an extreme now,” says Greenpeace spokesperson Jorgo Riss. “If you are not pursuing public interest,” he adds, “if you are pursuing more private interest, then the system works I guess much better for you.”

The EU Parliament’s UK Information Council responded to this type of criticism by saying that passing more laws at first reading does not imply that the process is secret; sessions are streamed online and documents are available on the EU website.