Opening up by closing off: How increased transparency triggers informalisation in EU decision-making

Evelyn Coremans (KU Leuven)

In an attempt to shake off the secrecy surrounding the EU’s trade negotiations, the European Commission is obliged, since 2009, to immediately and fully inform members of the European Parliament of its deliberations with third parties. Some may say unsurprisingly, the transparency-enhancing role of the European Parliament has come in hand with an informalisation of communication between Commission and Parliament: As transparency threatens confidentiality and quick decision-making, Commission officials turned to an informalisation of communication to preserve the efficiency of their trade negotiations, yet arguably eroded the transparency gains achieved through the 2009 reform. In her article “Opening up by closing off: How increased transparency triggers informalisation in EU decision-making” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Evelyn Coremans challenges the common perception that informalisation conflicts with the goals of transparency reforms. Focusing on the case of the EU-US negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Evelyn develops a causal mechanism linking the increased transparency of TTIP negotiations to the informalisation of interactions between the Commission and the European Parliament. Evidence from her case study supports Evelyn’s expectation that the Commission’s informalisation of communication improved the quantity and quality of information exchange with members of the European Parliament, much in line with the goals of the transparency reform. Evelyn concludes that the “informalisation of Parliament-Commission communication for TTIP is an improvement to a system where secrecy and confidentiality between Council and Commission reigned supreme only a few years before.”