It’s been high drama in the Brexit negotiations. British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker seemed to be on the cusp of a deal, only to have the entire thing fall apart at the last minute. Some commentators have been speculating that Theresa May had failed to brief the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – whose support she relies on in Parliament – about the substance of her offer to Ireland over the Northern Irish border.

It’s difficult to know for certain what happened. Which begs the question: are the negotiations being conducted as openly as possible? Are all parties on the same page? Are citizens and their political representatives being kept up to date? Is there enough clarity over negotiating positions and demands?

Regular Debating Europe readers will know our “Ask” series. Previously, we’ve co-hosted a live #AskJuncker event with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (we did the same thing with Juncker back in 2016). Before that, we co-hosted something very similar with Juncker’s predecessor, José Manuel Barroso.

We also did an “Ask the President” series of interviews with former EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy in 2011 (and again in 2013). And, ahead of the 2014 European Parliament elections, we also ran “Ask the Candidates” interviews with the various candidates for EU Commission President.

Today, we’re once again hosting an “Ask” interview. This time we’re putting your questions to the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly. As European Ombudsman, she deals with issues of maladministration, transparency, whistle blowing, and improper lobbying. She’s tasked with investigating complaints from citizens about poor administration by EU institutions or other EU bodies.

So, what sorts of complaints do our readers have? We’ll be hosting a series of interviews with Emily O’Reilly looking at different issues, but today we’re focusing on transparency. We had a comment from Sven who believes that EU negotiations (such as the Brexit negotiation) are being conducted too secretly. Is he right?

Next up, we had a comment from Davide, who wanted to see greater access to documents during trade talks. Do citizens (or at least MEPs) have enough access to documents during EU trade negotiations?

Finally, we had a comment sent in by Christos, who was divided over whether transparency is automatically a good thing in international negotiations. Don’t diplomats and negotiators need trust and privacy in order to reach agreement? Is there such a thing as “too much transparency” when it comes to trade talks?

Is transparency always a good thing in international negotiations? Are EU trade negotiations being conducted too secretly? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

55 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Marko Martinović

    Britain is working against its people as is EU. EU is turning tyrannical and its not democratic. If EU is to survive it has to start to work for its own people

    • avatar
      Dee O'brien

      “Its own people” the people never voted for this political union,it was foisted upon them

  2. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Of course NOT!
    When the EU is involved, the words:

    secretive and

    spring to mind!

    • avatar
      La F Ham

      I second Ivan.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      I too want Brexit!

    • avatar
      Krystyna Owen

      Can you three that want Brexit tell me why you voted for it?

    • avatar
      Jackie Edworthy

      Plus another one, we should never have joined!!!

  3. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    May needs to walk away from these pointless negotiations, punishment is the only thing Juncker and his politburo are interested in. We can live with no deal, can they ?

    • avatar
      John Neish

      Only if you are prepared to go on a strict diet.

    • avatar
      Ivan Burrows

      John Neish ‘strict diet.’ ?You do know there are 168 trading Nations in the world not in the EU don’t you ?

    • avatar
      Ivan Burrows

      Péter Sebők Tell me comrade, when we leave your pointless EU will you return to home or will you stay and enjoy the benefits only a ‘free’ Great Britain can offer ?

  4. avatar
    Paul X

    If there had been more “transparency” 42 years ago Brexit would never have happened……. because the UK would not even be in the EU

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Paul X
      Well said!
      The UK public was mislead!

  5. avatar
    Magaly Morales

    We need a different ombudsman better suited for Brexit. So far she have failed to support EU residents.

    • avatar
      Ivan Burrows

      It is not her job to ‘support EU residents’, only the interests of the British people.

    • avatar
      Magaly Morales

      Ivan Burrows yes it is when the State is responsible for the discrimination and racist persecution they are suffering from people like you

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Magaly Morales
      How can you say such a thing? Have you got any proof supporting your racialist assertion?

    • avatar
      Paul X

      She is agreeing to support EU resident in the UK and they will have all the rights enshrined in UK law. It is the EU position which is completely illogical, why should some one who chooses to live in the UK come under the jurisdiction of a court based in another country, how totally insulting to UK sovereignty is that? (though I would suggest that is the clear intention as the UK legal system is fundamentally superior to the ECJ)

    • avatar

      Tarquin, I think, everyone understands that her initial comment was the proof of that. Ivan has confirmed it… :-)

  6. avatar

    I don’t see why they need to be conducted openly. I think they should be kept confidential personally. Each side does its best and what we want to know is the final outcome, what counts. In the end, whether the agreed terms are voted by the various parliaments is what validates them.

    The people who want to know all the details or think that trade negotiations have anything to do with democracy are a little bit ignorant and clearly not busy enough in their lives.

  7. avatar
    Frank King

    Ivan Burrows
    We can’t live with no deal.
    EVERY country in the world is in a trade bloc. Please fact Check.
    NO country has found it possible to trade solely on WTO.

    • avatar
      Ivan Burrows

      Which is why trade deal around the world have already been agreed, all that is left to do is to sign the paperwork, unlike Brussels that took 7 years to sign CETA (& its still not guaranteed) and TTIP is now dead.The EU ‘was’ about trade but now its sole reason to exist is to become the United states of Europe at any cost and all costs and whether the peoples in the Nation States want it or not. So the real reason to leave is to avoid being sunk into another crazed idea to unite Europe under one flag & one anthem.

    • avatar
      Frank King

      This is just wishful thinking.
      All these countries want to sell to us, but not buy.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      @ Frank King

      I know we have some pretty incompetent politicians but I believe even they are not stupid enough to sign off 40 “one-way” trade deals

  8. avatar
    Ray Craymer

    No.. Polititions hide and bend the truth to manipulate the people so they remain in power. All the bad things are swept under the carpet..

  9. avatar
    Mindaugas Valentukevicius

    Yes. TTIP is one such example. Secondly, on the topic of trade or political negotiations and package deals: Since there is no chance in hell that all of the very different EU countries have very different interests/needs/preferences/perceptions, EU deals are quite often in the shape of package deals. This means that the resolutions offered are second-best or worse with regards to what the individual nation wants – this is socially inefficient as none of the participants can reach their optimum. The solution is to scrap EU level bargaining about trade and other issues, having left in its place a legislative infrastructure that allows for a non-harmful independent trade agreements between members and with the outside world.

  10. avatar
    Kristo Poljakov

    The real problem is that people directly democratically don’t arrive at decisions at any issues inc trade. Not to mention the mandatory immigration..

  11. avatar
    Rosy Forlenza

    i think we find out about them when the eu parliament is sought its approval, so yes, they need to be much more transparent. People also need to get used to writing to their MEPs to express their concerns on these matters. The danger with these trade deals is that it favours certain countries who are accommodating to their industrial-financial machines, Germany being the main suspect here, to the detriment of SMEs, liberal professionals and other countries too, the Germans themselves don’t seem to be too happy with that state of affairs given the protests and the election result (and Germany is not the only culprit here of course) but these big trade deals seems to suit Northern European industrial complexes much more.

  12. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    Brussels incompetence is just one of the many reasons we are leaving, 7 years to get a trade deal with Canada and now TTIP is dead, the EU is run by a bunch of ideologically driven fools.

    • avatar
      Michael Jørgensen

      I would rather trust leadership to Lord Buckethead than any of the fat cats in the current governemt if I were you.

    • avatar
      Ignacio Bazan

      kinda amazing, the hard right complaining that the right and pro banks and big companies government in Brussels is not enough pro banks and big business against everybody else… sarcastic

    • avatar
      Emmet Boylan

      TTIP was killed on the US side. Nothing to do with the EU.
      The US has Trade Agreements cover 20 countries. The EU has trade deals covering 35 already in place, agreements covering another 43 partially implemented, and agreements covering another 23 already negotiated and awaiting ratification. And that is without including the 27 other countries in the EU.
      Brussels is not incompetent at trade negotiations. It is way ahead.
      On the 1st April 2019 the UK with have 0, have no experience negotiating trade deals over the past 4 decades and have ministers who openly admit that they do not bother doing economic impact studies even after lying about having done nearly 60.
      Good luck buddy.

    • avatar
      Ivan Burrows

      Emmet Boylan

      And why did the USA stop the negotiations with the EU over TTIP ? simply because Brussels is incompetent.

      Any trade deal the EU has the UK also has, you would be a fool to think those Nations would allow Brussels to close one of their biggest markets.

      Trade agreements will be far easier for Great Britain to sign around the world without the BS of Brussels.

      The rest of your comment was the usual EU fanatical claptrap and was ignored.

      We are British and have no need of Luck … buddy.

  13. avatar
    J M Perz Gnlz

    Yes. They are conducted too secretly. Even for a single MEP is not possible to check the entire treaty draft without supervision in an isolate room with no windows.

  14. avatar

    Out of curiosity, how many (in the UK) heard of Lady Catherine Ashton before she became EU HR?

  15. avatar

    Trade is always about business secret, negotiation is always about making deals, so, it is nonsense that a trade negotiation needs to be conducted openly? It is impossible that any trade deal can distribute benefit to every single sector evenly or equally. Once the negotiation is made openly, there will be no end and there will be no deal. This is political reality and how the real world is actually functioning.

  16. avatar

    If people submit themselves for government, they need to believe their leader would not sacrifice national interest. It is fair enough the public are kept informed so that feedback can be obtained.

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