Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law
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Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law

Edited by Adam Lazowski and Steven Blockmans

Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law offers a critical look into the European Union: its legal foundations, competences and institutions. It provides an analysis of the EU legal system, its application at the national level and the prevalent role of the Court of Justice. Throughout the course of the Handbook the expert contributors discuss whether the European Union is well equipped for the 21st century and the numerous crises it has to handle. They revisit the call for an EU reform made in the Laeken Conclusions in 2001 to verify if its objectives have been achieved by the Treaty of Lisbon and in daily practice of the EU institutions. The book also delves into the concept of a Europe of different speeds, which - according to some - is inevitable in the EU comprising 28 Member States. Overall, the assessment of the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is positive, even if there are plenty of suggestions for further reforms to re-fit the EU for purpose.
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Chapter 7: Transparency in the EU: constitutional overtones, institutional dynamics and the escape hatch of secrecy

Deirdre Curtin and Maarten Hillebrandt


Transparency is one of those rare few European institutional principles that, upon their introduction, directly stirred an intense and fundamental debate. It has at times been appraised, contested and nuanced. Part of the ‘buzz’ around transparency has exactly been the product of this apparent ambiguity, which has led it to mean different things to different people. Nonetheless, over a period of 20 years, the legal principle of transparency has come a long way, undergoing a considerable process of development and expansion. Hence, while the academic literature has for long approached EU transparency as a new and innovative legal concept, today its relatively institutionalised status no longer supports such a characterisation. From the outset, the central instrument of transparency has been the right of public access to documents. By conceptualising (as opposed to operationalising) this right rather widely, it became quickly associated with mechanisms of public oversight of the legislative process and decision-makers more generally. The idea of the ‘widest possible access’, which underpinned the principle of transparency from the outset, became gradually developed and clarified through various parallel trends. Progressive changes in the Treaties and in secondary law, as well as, importantly, judicial enforcement, have gradually led to a certain degree of constitutionalisation, albeit in combination with a high degree of institutional stalemate and judicial gap-filling.

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