Transparency of the EU security policy

EPLO conference “Building conflict prevention into the future of Europe,” at the European Parliament 14 Nov 2002

Keynote speaker
Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament

The Council of the EU is attempting to create secrecy around ESDP, a course of action which goes directly against the values espoused by the European Parliament. It is important to discuss international events in public. For instance, in 1994, Kofi Annan admitted that the UN Security Council had knowledge that genocide was in preparation in Rwanda.  This information was kept secret so as to prevent a groundswell of public pressure which could have forced governments to intervene.  Consequently virtually nothing was done to prevent the suffering which ensued.[:]

The borderline between internal and external security has become extremely thin, especially since September 11. The balance between the “raison d’Etat” and civilian rights has been more and more difficult to reach, particularly in a globalised world. Notions such as the security of the state should not be used to increase the number of exceptions to the principle that citizens should have access to documents in a democratic society.

The conclusions of the Feira Council in June 2000 called for increasing transparency in the relations between NATO and the EU. But in reality the EU has had to subordinate some of its ambitions toward the widest possible access to documents. The “Solana decision” excluded documents related to “security and defence of the EU or one of its member-states” from public access. The Council also decided to adapt its own internal system for the NATO classification of documents. This limited access to documents even further. Article 21 of the EU Treaty states that the Council has a duty to inform the European Parliament about essential developments in CFSP. In the autumn of 2000, negotiations took place between the Council and the European Parliament. In October 2002, the Parliament adopted an inter-institutional agreement which, under certain conditions, gives some parliamentarians a privileged right to participate in the scrutiny of classified CSDP documents. However, according to Ms. Hautala this agreement is not a satisfactory one. Firstly, the EP should have insisted on its constitutional rights defined in the above-mentioned Article 21. Second the agreement gives a veto right to third parties that have produced documents to exclude them from the European Parliament special committee. Third, there are no exemptions that would facilitate lifting the duty to secrecy to which the members of the parliaments who participate in these meetings are bound. In addition, these MEP’s have to be scrutinised by the national security services of the member-states. Fourth, there is the issue of the so-called “need to know”, i.e. it must be demonstrated that an MEP ‘needs to know’ about a certain classified topic, something which is not decided by the MEP’s themselves.

 To really improve transparency dramatically, the Convention needs to recommend the abolition of the pillar structure since it effectively stifles accountability. Only the decision-making process in first pillar activities allow for genuine democratic accountability. The proposal for a President of the EU is, however, not a good one. It might have been a good idea in the early 20th century. Today what is needed is to give more influence to parliaments and to the citizens. Finally, national parliaments also need to have more of a say in the decision-making process.