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Preparing for an EU Council meeting in six steps

I will be part of a pilot project this week, participating as an accredited blogger at the EU Competitiveness Council. The background for this pilot project is here, so I’ll head directly into the preparations. Please follow me into how the blogger can prepare for an EU Council meeting (Trivia is only for experts):

Step 1

Let’s go to the website of the EU Council to try to find the agenda of the upcoming Council meeting.

Trivia: Don’t end up on the website of the European Council, it looks very much alike but this is a different institution since the Lisbon Treaty is in place. Since you are an EU expert, you know that, so this was just in case. More import is not to end up on the website of the Council of Europe, which isn’t even the EU (standard mistake by the UK tabloid press).

Step 2

No link to the agenda of the Council on the front page, ~36 hours before it starts. But we’ll find it.

Trivia: You could try the menu button “Press” on the upper right and there you’d find, under “Council meetings” this link to the Council on Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space), 3074th Council meeting – Brussels, 9 and 10 March 2011. However, the same link can be found on the front page where you started, right in the middle column under the button “Council Meetings”. Luckily, as a blogger, you don’t need to take the long way through the “Press”.

Step 3

Under the “Council meetings” button you get to the Council meetings page, where you now find the agenda of the upcoming Competitiveness Council. Unfortunately, the document doesn’t link or reference any documents under any of the agenda items. How to prepare for the Council’s substance? Maybe the related documents are to be found behind the link called “Presidency briefing“?

Trivia: Since you are an EU expert, you know that Council meetings are prepared by COREPER. As an expert, you could therefore go to the Advanced Search in the Council’s public register of documents. There you would enter a search for a meeting dated 1st of March or later having “Permanent Representatives” in the title (it must have been last week, therefore 1st of March or later). This would be the result when you’ve done this search. As an EU expert or as somebody who has read the Wikipedia page on COREPER linked above, you would know that COREPER I deals with the Competitiveness Council, so you’d take a look into the respective COREPER I agenda of last week. Somewhere there, under agenda item 22 (which is split over two days) you would have found the preparations of the Competitiveness Council, including all references to documents, which you could now search in the Advanced Search of the Council’s public register using the document numbers, such as 6904/11.

Step 4

Unfortunately, the Presidency briefing is just the announcement of the Presidency briefing, not its content. This briefing is off-the-record and thus not public. Since I’m accredited for this Council meeting, I’ll be able to participate tomorrow morning for the first time in my life. Will tell you whether this is of any help. But I still don’t have my documents. There’s another link left on the Council meetings page, called “Open sessions“. Will I find my documents there?

Trivia: According to Article 16(8) of the Treaty on European Union, “[t]he Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act. To this end, each Council meeting shall be divided into two parts, dealing respectively with deliberations on Union legislative acts and non-legislative activities.” In Article 15(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, it is clarified that “[t]he European Parliament and the Council shall ensure publication of the documents relating to the legislative procedures”.

Step 5

To my great surprise, the site on the “Open sessions” lists three linked agenda items under the Competitiveness Council:

To my even greater surprise, following these links actually brings you to a list of documents for each of these agenda items, giving you enough to read for the rest of the night. Sometimes I still get surprised by the Council website.

Trivia: Since you have taken a look at the agenda of the Competitiveness Council, you know that there are more issues on the agenda than these three. So you have to switch back to EU expert mode and search for the last COREPER meeting to get all the related documents. Sorry for that. But you may be content with what you found under the “Open sessions” and sleep the sweet dream of the clueless. Or search for every little document, including the documents referenced in these documents, which then reference previous documents. Or maybe not.

Step 6

I think I’ve done enough preparation for today. I’ll have a look into some of the documents of the the open sessions and wait for the briefing tomorrow. Let’s see what I’ll learn there.

Trivia: If I was organising Council meetings and would be interested in having an informed public (i.e. informed journalists, bloggers etc.) before and after the meeting, I’d put up a webpage for each Council where all the relevant documents (including past discussions in/agendas of related COREPER and Working Party meetings) are already linked (not just referenced) under each agenda item. But you as an EU expert, you find all these things on your own, I know.



4 Responses to Preparing for an EU Council meeting in six steps

  1. avatar Dana says:

    Excellent, Ron! Very clear explanations also for the “expert” trivia entries. Congrats and thanks for your suggestions!

    Colleagues from the Transparency Unit are actually working on a register of documents with hyperlinks to all documents referenced. In the meantime: posts like yours will make life easier for people looking for Council documents.

  2. avatar dapixwatch says:

    Many thanks. Might be worth to mention that an “advanced” register search for a “subject” can help tracking activities of certain preparatory bodies in their policy areas before these enter Coreper or minister level.

  3. avatar mathew says:

    Very, very entertaining. And also despairing.

    You know, it really is very simple with half-modern content management systems to link documents together so that once a user finds one, they can find all related ones, as well as background docs and sites. There’s really no credible reason why the EU Institutions have to make it so hard to track them down.

  4. avatar vera says:

    Put me in a better mood after tweeping some bad tempered remarks on #EUpilote. I even had to laugh out loudly though with a touch of a despaired undertone …

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