Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hurrah for the House of Lords select committee

I break my silence to bring you news of great excitement.

EU studies afficionados, lawyers and political scientists alike, will long have been familiar with the often splendid and well researched reports of House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union. Indeed, it is much more effective organ, although in fairness it has a different remit, than its House of Commons equivalent, the European Scrutiny Committee. This week, proving again the ongoing usefulness of what a peer of my acquaintance insists on calling the "Old Folks Home" (or at least part of it), the HL Committee has engaged in trenchant criticism of the secretive meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs ministers of the big Member States, who meet regularly to plot the future of Justice and Home Affairs policy in the EU, but do so in complete secrecy and with virtual no press scrutiny (certainly not in the UK). The most recent meeting was at Heiligendamm in Germany, and this is what the report is about. Not only is this complete lack of transparency particularly hypocritical on the part of the ministers because at the same time there is an important initiative towards Council transparency (that is, meeting in public), about which I have written before and in relation to which further developments are charted here. Perpetuating the problem of the JHA Big Six (or G6) meetings being largely unscrutinized by the press, the HL report itself has received remarkably little attention in the press, even though it is very strongly worded. For example:

"Decisions were reached at that meeting which, if taken forward, would involve important changes to current EU thinking and to declared Government policy. The Home Office releases no information about these meetings, which receive minimal publicity. Ministers should report back to Parliament routinely after such meetings."


"At a time when the European Council has agreed a new Policy on Transparency, with many of its debates open to the public and broadcast in all Community languages, there is every reason why Parliament and the public should be given the fullest information about a meeting of this potential significance. Ministers returning from Council meetings are expected to report back by written ministerial statement; the same should apply to meetings of the G6. The Home Office should publish the Conclusions of all G6 meetings—in English."

Well done to the House of Lords.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On hiatus

Dear Readers and happenstance visitors,

Not least because of the routines of the academic year, this blog is rather on hiatus. I might have a yen to post occasionally, but mostly I'm just blogging rather inconsequentially (when do I ever do otherwise) and infrequently, at Bondbloke. I will be back, however, in September, for sure. Watch out for that.