Tytti Tuppurainen: Working for common solutions to increase the EU’s transparency
Finland has advocated greater transparency throughout its EU membership. We have been pursuing these efforts during our six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU from July to December 2019. This endeavour is closely linked to our national traditions of transparent public administration and the related positive experiences.
Openness and transparency are of great value in societies. As the Council Presidency, we have sought to promote transparency in a comprehensive manner. We are convinced that transparency and open communication promote democracy and citizens’ participation, enhance trust and accountability and help to ensure good governance. These principles can also serve as tools to counter disinformation and fake news.
There is no single tool to make EU decision-making more transparent. This means we must put different instruments to use. For example, it would be important that the EU institutions could agree on the EU Transparency Register proposal as soon possible to increase transparency in lobbying political decision-makers.
Making the Council’s work more understandable to citizens
Over the years, citizens have called for greater transparency in the EU legislative process. As the Council Presidency, we implemented some balanced and pragmatic measures to improve transparency and to make the Council’s work more understandable to the public. Our aim has been to help gain experiences, concretise the issue, raise awareness and clear up possible misunderstandings.
These measures included increasing the number of live-streamed discussions in Council meetings, open and active communication of public information by Finnish ministers and public officials, and taking a proactive approach to ensuring more public access to legislative documents. Furthermore, we are publishing information on EU-related meetings that our ministers have with lobbyists.
I hope that our approach is seen to be a successful, down-to-earth way to promote mutual understanding and to build consensus. We have prepared a report on the experiences gained during our Presidency. We hope that these experiences will be of use in further discussions on transparency and provide a basis for longer-term solutions.
For me, the most important conclusion of the report is that there are many pragmatic and simple measures to ensure that the citizens and stakeholders have access that is user-friendly and as open as possible to relevant information about EU decision-making. We just have to be ready to invest some time and effort in identifying these measures and in putting them into practice.
Public discussion on corporate sponsorships of Council presidencies is welcome
One issue related to transparency that has raised interest is the corporate sponsorships of Council presidencies. I take these concerns seriously. In my opinion, transparency and good governance should be fully respected.
Given that the matter falls under the national competence of the member states, EU-level rules would be difficult to establish from a legal perspective. Nevertheless, I warmly welcome public discussion on the topic to raise awareness in the member states and among future presidencies. I also count on member states having in place high standards regarding such practices.
The EU’s transparency has certainly increased a lot during the previous decades, but it is clear that further work is needed to meet the demands of the general public and civil society. Close cooperation between the EU institutions, civil society, media, academia and the public is essential.
By playing our part in this joint effort, we are protecting democracy and the EU’s other fundamental values.