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International agreements: the Council opens its door to the European Parliament

The lines of negotiation of the international agreements that Michèle Alliot Marie consults will be (a little) accessible to the European Parliament (credit: council of the European union)

The European Parliament will be able to access, but under certain conditions, the directives for negotiating international agreements. Guidelines that are normally covered by the “top secret“. The Council of Ministers should approve the project which was approved on Wednesday (December 1) by the ambassadors of the 27. But the European Parliament will not have access to everything and even then under certain conditions.

The issue of negotiating directives: a lasting subject

Although the Treaty of Lisbon gave the European Parliament the power to decide on the conclusion of international agreements, either to approve them or simply to give its opinion (1), it did not provide for the modalities. In particular, what parliamentarians are demanding is to be able to have access to the “negotiation directives” which frame the way in which the European Union intends to approach the negotiation. And for a year, it has been a subject of discord, discussions have been going well between the three European institutions: the European Parliament on one side, the Member States (in the Council) and the Commission on the other.

The subject first arose with the accession agreement of the European Union to the ECHR. After hesitation, the Council finally agreed to give the documents to certain parliamentarians (presidents, coordinators of political groups and rapporteurs) and under conditions. It remained to establish a rule for all agreements.

Content of the Member States' proposal: an opening under strict conditions

Three conditions were set by the member states for parliamentarians' access to the negotiating directives:

– the transmission will not be automatic. It is up to “the presidents of the (parliamentary) committees concerned to transmit these requests” in writing to the Chairman of the Board ". " The Council will consider requests for information regarding negotiating mandates on a case-by-case basis. The Council will examine them sympathetically and will endeavor to respond favorably to them.. "

– no copy. “ Access will take place in a secure room within the Council's premises. (…) The document itself will remain in the possession of the Council.

- no quote. " The details of its content cannot be directly mentioned at public meetings. »

NB: first application of this agreement, the Member States will allow access to the European Parliament to the negotiating directives of the framework agreement between the EU and Libya.

Remedial oral in camera

If the Council refuses this direct access, the Presidency of the Council will be able to present a presentation? complete oral during a meeting closed session with the committees concerned »

Comment: I am not sure that this proposal receives the unanimous opinion of the European Parliament. The question is delicate. We are at the limit of two exercises: diplomatic or democratic, each of which has its own imperatives and legitimacy. Revealing all the negotiating guidelines is like walking into a shooting range unarmed and unarmed. Not revealing anything means not allowing the European Parliament to exercise democratic control and lending a hand to all the maneuvers.

(1) Section 218, see here.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).