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Transparency in the European Union

by eurogreen Sun Dec 4th, 2016 at 12:09:49 PM EST

I have, perhaps foolishly, promised to produce a policy contribution on the above subject, in the context of policy development for DiEM 25.
Currently the only official policy we have is the original manifesto, supplemented by a few ad-hoc issues settled by a vote of members.

The policy formation process itself is still very much a work in progress, but basically it works like this :

  • a policy convener writes a questionnaire on a policy domain,
  • local (or virtual) groups respond with proposals
  • three generations of Green Papers are generated
  • there is a vote to validate a White Paper.

There are six domains identified :
  • Transparency
  • Refugees and Migration
  • the European New Deal
  • Labour
  • Green Investment
  • A European Constitution.
This proces is underway for the first three domains, with a deadline of 15th December for the first round of contributions.

The rest of this diary is the questionnaire written by Dániel Fehér.

You know what I'm asking you to do now, don't you?
That's right. My homework.

More precisely : my Diem25 local group is meeting tomorrow night on the subject, and we have ten days to present a contribution. So any ideas batted around here in the meantime are quite likely to end up in that contribution.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger


Transparency

Questionnaire for DiEM25 Members

by Dániel Fehér

Why do we want transparency?

Most people would agree that more transparency in politics is generally a good idea. We should remember that transparency in itself is an instrument and not an end. So, before dipping deep into the details, we should ask ourselves:

  • What political goals do we want to achieve with greater transparency?

  • What is the connection between democracy and transparency?

  • How can transparency bring us closer to our ideal of a just society with equal chances for political and economic participation for all?

Making EU institutions accountable

One of the basic principles of democratic control is that people have the right to know how and why their elected representatives and public officials take decisions, particularly on issues that affect them. Access to information on the work and the decision making processes of public bodies is at the heart of accountable governance. The most commonly used arguments against additional transparency revolve around the need for a "space to think" or to negotiate freely, potential threats to national security, additional administrative burdens and increasingly, business secrets. To a certain extent these concerns can be valid, in other cases they are meant to make decision makers' lives easier to the detriment of their democratic control. The main question is therefore:

  • What kind of information should the EU's decision making bodies release about their proceedings and decisions, how fast and in what form?


Other questions that arise in this context:

  • What kinds of documents should be published automatically and in which timeframe?

  • Who has the right to request access to documents that are not published automatically, how fast should administrations react to such requests?

  • How precisely should citizens have to define the scope of documents they want to access, given that they are not likely to be aware of the existence of all individual documents relevant to the subject matter they are interested in?

  • How to draw the line between legitimate exceptions to transparency and attempts to conceal information?

Court procedures are often too slow to guarantee timely access to information: How to deal with the reluctance of public administrations to reveal requested documents?

Should public officials be made personally responsible for not granting access to documents as required by law?

Should private companies be covered by specific transparency obligations?Institutions and decision making bodies we want to look at in the chapter are the EU Council, the Eurogroup, the European Commission, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the European Central Bank, the Troika, as well as Member States administrations as far as they are directly involved in EU decision making processes.

Institutions and decision making bodies we want to look at in the chapter are the EU Council, the Eurogroup, the European Commission, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the European Central Bank, the Troika, as well as Member States administrations as far as they are directly involved in EU decision making processes.

Lobbying unmasked

Democracy is the art of finding good compromises between conflicting interests. Articulating one's interest and trying to influence decision making in one's own favour - whether in an individual or collective capacity - is therefore an integral part of the political process, so nothing "evil" per se. However, the problem arises if some interest groups get privileged access to decision makers and decision making processes - be it through the resources they can mobilise, through personal contacts or because they are in the position to offer personal and/or political favours - that is denied from others. Furthermore, while much political lobbying and campaigning is done in the public sphere, substantial parts of it remain hidden, so citizens often cannot even know how and why various interest groups might have influenced certain laws or administrative decisions.

  • What kind of activities and actors should a definition of "lobbying" cover on EU level?

  • What kind of incentives and sanctions would a mandatory lobby register for all EU institutions need to have in order to be effective and meaningful?

  • How could a European lobby register also cover lobbying activities targeting member state government officials?

  • What kind of organisations and individuals should be obliged to enroll in the lobby register?

  • What kind of information should be provided in the lobby register and how can data accuracy be checked and enforced?

  • How should EU officials and MEPs (and their staff) report about meetings with representatives of interest groups?

  • How should members for the expert groups that support the legislative work of the European Commission be selected and what kind of information should be published about them?

  • What kind of "cooling off periods" do we need for different kinds of EU officials to contain the "revolving door" effect that creates strong personal links between interest groups and legislators? How can we discourage and sanction former EU officials using their personal links within the institutions for lobbying advantage (with Barroso and Goldman Sachs just being the tip of the iceberg)?

  • How can we regulate effectively conflict of interest situations of decision makers - especially elected office holders - in the EU institutions? What kind of side activities should be reported on and in which detail, what activities should be forbidden?

  • What kind of reporting requirements and possible sanctions do we need in order to tame harmful global lobbying activities by EU businesses especially in developing countries?

Secret trade agreements

In the past years, the "next generation" trade agreements TTIP, CETA and TiSA have generated lots of resistance across Europe. Beyond the content of these deals that privileges large multinational corporations over citizens, consumers and smaller local businesses, the negotiation process accounted for much of the criticism. Due to maximum secrecy, the general public is not able to discuss these deals and members of parliaments are not able to exercise their democratic control rights, whereas lobbyists are invited generously to have their say. When the negotiations end, governments and parliaments are presented with the simple choice of "take it or leave it" - an open, democratic deliberation about the content is not desired. No wonder that calls to drop these agreements also include the demand to entirely rethink the way we conclude international trade agreements. This includes not just those that clearly affect European citizens negatively, but also those that the EU concludes - also without public notice - on unequal footing with developing countries (BITs, FTAs, association agreements).

  • How should the mandate of such far-reaching trade deals be decided in future? Should it be made public in parts or entirely - and at what point?

  • What kind of access should members of national and regional parliaments and governments and Members of the European Parliament have to documents of such trade deal negotiations?

  • What documents should be made accessible to the public and at what point?

  • How should the democratic debate preceding the adoption of such agreements look like?

Follow the money

It is not just decisions on behalf of the public and the road to them that is being kept hidden from the public's eyes. Public money - or money that belongs in part to the public through taxation - is also frequently hidden, usually through various offshore channels. Often enough, such money comes itself as reward for corrupt behaviour. Therefore when speaking about transparency in the interest of common good, we also have to address tax evasion, money laundering and other forms of cheating the public interest.

  • What measures should the EU apply to ensure that all wealth and income is taxed in the place where it is being created?

  • How can we stop EU member states from syphoning away other EU member states' incomes?

  • What can the EU do on a global level to eliminate offshore tax havens?

  • What sanctions could be effective to discourage tax evasion?

  • How can we exclude companies with opaque ownership structures from participating in public procurement and benefiting from EU funds?

  • What anti corruption prevention mechanisms need to be put in place, and how?

Public money

Besides the income side of public budgets, there is also a big need for more transparency on the expenses side, to enable us to see clearly who the benefactors of public money actually are. This will then also enhance our ability to hold those who decide about public budgets accountable and to participate in decision making about spending public money in a well- informed way.

  • What rules do we need to make spending of EU money - especially the part which is distributed by national governments and their agencies - more transparent?

  • What should be the basic principles for spending EU money in member states, considering especially public procurement procedures?

  • How could we monitor more efficiently how EU money is spent in member states?

  • Do we need more efficient sanctions against corruption in EU member states?

  • How can we make budgets - including on local and regional level - more transparent and enhance citizen participation in budget decisions?

  • In what format should data about public spending be made available, what information should it contain about beneficiaries of public money?

Transparency put into practice

Last but not least, we should not just talk about the rules of achieving more transparency, but also how to make it work in practice. That includes developing tools, ideas and proposals to make information on public decision making and budgets easier to access, process and analyse, to harness people with the knowledge to understand such information, to support the work of journalists and researchers who dig up the information on corruption and abuse of power, and to protect those who alert the public about corrupt practices.

  • How can we improve our educational systems to increase media literacy, data analysis skills and democratic awareness?

  • What educational means could we use to increase general awareness about the need for better transparency?

  • What technologies could help us to give researchers and citizens better access to information about public decision making processes, about those involved in these processes, and about the handling of public money?

  • How can we support the work of investigative journalists?

  • What rules and practices do we need to encourage whistleblowing and strengthen the protection of whistleblowers?

[ends]

Display:
As the subject is too vast to address in its entirety, and because my knowledge of the existing arrangements is weak and fragmentary, I have decided to cherry-pick, and address a few points that interest me particularly.

The Eurogroup, as we all know, is one of the most powerful European structures. An interesting and revealing battle has played out in recent months between Emily O'Reilly, EU Ombudsman, and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the Eurogroup, on tranparency issues :

O'Reilly's opening salvo alleges that the Eurogroup, as an emanation of the EU Council, is subject to the same transparency requirements, and complains, among other things, that

it is currently not possible to obtain an overview of Eurogroup documentation that citizens can request.

Dijsselbloem kicks for touch in his reply, pointing out that
the Eurogroup is an informal gathering of Finance Ministers
, therefore accountable to no-one. While agreeing about the close relationship between transparency and legitimacy...
O'Reilly's follow-up pushes him on the Eurogroup Working Group's preparatory documents, and on country-specific "program" documents, which Dijsselbloem had previously proposed should be published  before Eurogroup meetings, but subsequently decided would be published shortly after the meetings (unless they had a specific excuse not to).
Finally, Dijsselbloem's reply of 25th November makes it clear that the EG will only be as transparent as it wants to be, given that it doesn't exist.

All of which is a complete waste of time with respect to transparency policy, because an unofficial body accountable to no-one is never going to be transparent. And underlines the urgent need to abolish the Eurogroup, but that is off subject.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Dec 4th, 2016 at 04:33:11 PM EST
This seems to be a case of wanting to have one's cake and eating it at the same time: The Eurogroup is formally established under the Lisbon Treaty:
Legal basis for the Eurogroup
Prior to the Lisbon Treaty, the Eurogroup had no legal basis. A formal legal basis was granted for the first time under the Lisbon Treaty when it came into force on 1 December 2009. Protocol 14 of the treaty lays out just two articles to govern the group;

    Article 1: The Ministers of the Member States whose currency is the euro shall meet informally. Such meetings shall take place, when necessary, to discuss questions related to the specific responsibilities they share with regard to the single currency. The Commission shall take part in the meetings. The European Central Bank shall be invited to take part in such meetings, which shall be prepared by the representatives of the Ministers with responsibility for finance of the Member States whose currency is the euro and of the Commission.
    Article 2: The Ministers of the Member States whose currency is the euro shall elect a president for two and a half years, by a majority of those Member States.
    -- Protocol 14 of the Consolidated Treaties of the European Union (as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon)[14]

Furthermore, the treaty amended the Council of the EU's rules so that when the full Ecofin council votes on matters only affecting the eurozone, only those states using the euro (the Eurogroup countries) are permitted to vote on it.[15]

Thus, while the Treaty makes reference to the Eurogroup meeting informally, that doesn't mean that the minutes or working documents have to remain secret. Indeed, it could be construed as meaning precisely the opposite.  Furthermore, as voting at Ecofin meetings on Euro related matters is restricted to the Eurogroup, it is effectively the supreme decision making body of the Eurozone, reporting only to the European Council itself.

I don't think you can or should want to prevent groups of ministers meeting informally from time to time to work on half worked through proposals which are still some way off becoming the subject of formal Council decisions. It is important to work through divisive issues and arrive at a consensus in this way. But when you become a formal part of the decision making process of the EU, citizens and the European Parliament are entitled to have some visibility of what is being discusses in their name and to think through their responses.  There becomes a point where secrecy undermines the legitimacy of the process and may also lesson the quality of the decisions made.

Given the role of the Eurogroup in effectively undermining Greek democracy and crushing its economy, a great deal more accountability is required.  The narrow mandate of the ECB makes it even more important that there is another forum for the proper discussion of Eurogroup fiscal policy coordination, banking resolution mechanisms, the impact on employment and unemployment levels, and the regulation of the financial services sector.  

All of these matters are of vital importance to the management of a Currency Union and all have been badly managed resulting in recurring crises, asynchronous shocks and anaemic overall growth. At the moment no ones seems to be taking responsibility for these management processes and this lack of accountability is facilitated by the lack of transparency. Hiding behind the "informality" of the process then becomes synonymous with avoiding accountability.  Is it even possible for the Eurogroup President to be sacked for poor performance?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 4th, 2016 at 08:31:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it looks like the Eurogroup President will be sacked by his own electors. That's something. They'll have to find another nonentity to do their dirty work.

I admire the efforts of the ombudsperson, but it's clear she has little power of constraint over this non-institution.

It's clear that the next treaty (assuming there is one), or rather, the EU constitution, needs to create formal organs of governance to replace the Eurogroup clusterf*ck. Parliamentary, not only intergovernmental, with an obligation of as much transparency as is functionally possible.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Dec 5th, 2016 at 06:25:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is needed will be resisted by the wealthy EU members, so it might be best to formulate EU policy goals as a guide to further steps towards integration. Create and build support for EU policies that move towards these goals. Embed these goals in the next treaty. Then allow the courts to strike down legislation that goes against these goals.

Monetary policy for the ECB and fiscal policy for the EU Parliament must be based on legislation originating in the EP. It must be based on the needs of all member countries and no one nation should be able to dominate that decision. Formal principals must be formulated with practical political realities in mind. Present economic disparities are best dealt with by policies that promote growth in all countries through effective recycling of national surpluses via investments in deficit countries by the surplus countries and by, over time, combining the social insurance programs in all member states into one EU wide system. This should start with the present transport-ability of pensions and continue through  harmonization of health care quality throughout the EU.

This approach has the advantage of familiarity - moving towards convergence, but will redirect that convergence towards the goal of raising the standards of pensions and health care where it lags. This could be done in some ways by initially tying surplus country investment in specific deficit countries in  proportion to the number of nationals retiring in that country.

Institutionally it might be advantageous to create a legislative body in the EP to promote convergence and make that committee also responsible for laws affecting how this will be done. Handling of the CAP should be a subcommittee of this committee. The problem is how to deal with the related Executive functions as the EC is woefully unsuited to such a function. Implementation will have to be coordinated with the plans for creating an effective Executive Branch for the EU.

The problem is that none of these things are likely to happen until the crippling effects of current 'austerity' policies are reversed. Else current trends to the right will only intensify and the result will likely be that what ever changes are made would be implemented by right wing parties that oppose the entire agenda.    
 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 6th, 2016 at 03:56:42 PM EST
I doubt there will be any new Treaty any time soon - given the requirement for unanimous agreement of member states - by referendum in some countries.  Given the trend towards right wing nationalism and attempts to repatriate powers already ceded to the EU, I also doubt there will be much in the way of further integration in the near future.

Probably the best we can hope for is small wins on the lines of making it easier for citizens to move and work from one country to another, harmonisation of educational standards and professional qualifications etc.  Attempts to impose a common consolidated tax base for corporate taxation will be resisted by smaller low tax countries like Ireland and the Baltics.

Most of the available political energy will be taken up by negotiating Brexit on terms advantageous to the EU, preventing further bank and sovereign defaults in Greece, Italy, Spain etc. and shoring up the Euro from attempts at secession by some countries like Italy.

All in all the EU seems in defensive mode now, trying to retain what it has and losing as little as possible in the face of a political onslaught from the nationalist right. Few, if any, new trade deals will be negotiated - probably not even one with the departing UK. Protectionism and xenophobia will become the new normal.

BTW - thanks a bunch for Trump...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 6th, 2016 at 04:32:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While I can't return the compliment, perhaps Ireland can derail Brexit. I actually voted for Clinton, all things considered, but, barring successful recounts in three states, it looks like he will be my president. For that I am truly sorry.

I totally agree about your comments otherwise. But this is DIEM's path towards an improved EU, and I consider it helpful to actually have a plan for an organization that works for all members of the EU and Eurozone, despite the odds that it can ever be implemented. We can never rule out some event that could change that calculus, in which case it would be better to have a coherent plan.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 6th, 2016 at 05:56:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See my sig line.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 6th, 2016 at 06:00:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I fully agree that it is important for groups like DIEM to map out a route to their preferred Nirvana even if it looks unlikely to be practicable, given current political realities.  Less glamorously, it is perhaps also necessary to have a defensive plan to protect what is currently good in the EU from likely assaults by right wing xenophobes and demagogues, even if the best result one can hope for is less ground lost from the current status quo.  

The latter task risks one being painted as a conservative defender of the status quo, as a bastion of the elite, establishment, old order.  It is hardly a recipe for building a new, youth oriented, organisation promoting radical change.  It is perhaps a similar dilemma faced by progressive voters in the US when faced with the choice or Clinton or Sanders.  If both could have defeated Trump, Sanders would have been the better choice.  If neither could have defeated Trump, Sanders would have been the better choice setting the Dem party up for more successful battles in the future.

Now that Clinton has lost, all we are left with is a Dem gerontocracy with almost no young leadership cohort well positioned to take their places.  So yes, by all means let Diem fight to develop a vision and a new generation of leaders for the future, and perhaps leave defending what we have as a task for others.  The problem is that in both the US and EU those "others" are getting progressively older and weaker, and perhaps soon both will pass away into history leading to a new flood tide of fascism to take over the world.  Who new that the lessons of WWII could be forgotten so quickly?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 12:32:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PS my Thanx4Trump line was more in the way of a transatlantic jibe than a personal comment! :-)


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 01:05:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't worry. You will have to try harder before you can offend me and I took it as a jest in any case.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 03:26:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we are left with is a Dem gerontocracy with almost no young leadership cohort well positioned to take their places
Breaking up gerontocracy would not be a problem for a real leader. It is more questionable whether younger generations will produce any leftish leaders that we would uplift.

If we write the Clintons away, and Obama is too complacent, when was the last time the left had inspiring leaders? The 60s?

by das monde on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 01:25:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regular reminder that Bernie Sanders, a thousand years old socialist filled stadiums. Inspiring depends on context more than anything.
by generic on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 03:15:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He could well be doing it again, depending on the results of the recounts. Penn is only a few thousand votes away from a mandatory recount if the results are within 0.5%. The results from Mich. are a totally embarrassment and a Federal Judge has ordered a hand count. Local officials in Wayne County are now saying that they can't do a recount because of the tampered ballot boxes and failed voting machines! And in Wis. the total is moving towards Clinton and there are massive problems in key counties. If Arkansas can have a mandatory paper trail for electronic voting machines why can't those three states, plus Florida? I hope. and one might expect, voter fraud to be a criminal offense with mandatory prison time.

Comment is based on reporting by The Palmer Report, which is well rated. Center-Left in this case appears to mean that it actually reports on this story as it happens, as opposed to the MSM, supposedly left of center, which studiously ignores it.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 04:10:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was he inspiring enough to leave Clinton behind? Sanders only underscores than no one better showed up.
by das monde on Thu Dec 8th, 2016 at 03:22:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To do better than Sanders we would have needed someone with all of the personal history, charisma and social analysis of Sanders to have inherited the DNC and had a lock on the Mainstream Media. Thanks to Sanders the bar might not be so high the next time.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 8th, 2016 at 03:29:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This
by fjallstrom on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 03:40:39 PM EST
New attempt.

This is a wide question, perhaps to wide.

When in 2008 the European Pirates did a common platform for the 2009 elections we struggled with similar questions and in the end landed on a generic formulation of as good transparency as any member state. This meant cases of bad transparency could be attacked if the pirate in question knew of a better, national solution. Which was often the basis for complaining anyway.

by fjallstrom on Wed Dec 7th, 2016 at 03:47:48 PM EST
This is my paradigm for Europe : you take the best existing national legislation, rework it for the EU level, then let it diffuse to the member states.
So, which national tranparency models work best?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Dec 11th, 2016 at 04:27:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know, and there are probably things to learn from differet national experiences.

Swedish transparency works pretty well on a couple of foundational principles:

  • Everything that isn't secret, is public (burden to show that it is and should be secret is on the government). Work products (including post-its) are not included, and there are pretty strict times on how long everything must be kept.

  • List of reasons to make things secret is short and comprehensive.

  • Government employees has a legally protected right to whistle-blow in that bosses are prohibited from investigating who told the press. Only works in combination with strong unions though.

You can get documents sent home to you, but you can also access documents on site, and if so the government has no right to check your identity. For large amounts of paper copies the government can charge a copying fee, but I don't know how relevant that is today with digital files.

These rules goes back to the rivalry and mutual suspicion between the hats and the caps in parliament run Sweden in the 18th century, but they have served well in keeping corruption down.

For a more modern example, Dataskydd.net (run by former Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter) recently sued for access to the national police chief's tracking cookies and got them. I don't remember why she did that, but you can do stuff like that.

There is a privacy vs transparency debate in particular when you can cross-check databases with ease. The Pirate position is that information needs to be limited at collection, ie you should as a rule not build databases with data you don't want public.

by fjallstrom on Mon Dec 12th, 2016 at 04:44:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one can argue that more transparency for citizens isn't a good thing, especially in peacetime. But what if your model of politics assumes that states are currently in mortal combat with corporates, and that corporates are generally winning, with the result that fine ideals like democracy are increasingly becoming mere window dressing masking the increasing powerlessness of states.

In that scenario corporates can use a fine ideal like transparency to demand access to all the inner workings of the state - in effect to gain free intelligence on their enemy - in order to defeat it more thoroughly.

We have recently see wikileaks being used very effectively to defeat one candidate for the Presidency of the US -  a candidate who, for all her faults, was generally an advocate for increasing the powers of the state vis a vis corporates, especially when compared to her opponent.

Now we have, effectively, a free-for-all for the private sector in the US, with corporates readying themselves to gorge themselves on the public assets of the state. Public schools will be taken over by private Charter Schools - freed from the constraints of pubic policy on teaching religion, creationism, and outright racist ideology to the next generation.

Health care and social provision will be further privatised, the military replaced by private contractors. Public prisons turned into private slave labour camps.  All removed from public scrutiny and regulation.

So whatever the short-comings of transparency in the public sphere, it is as nothing compared to the legalised secrecy of private enterprise where the state or private citizens can be sued for damages for revealing anything that might show the workings of the private corporation in a bad light.

So we have a dilemma: Are calls for greater transparency sometimes merely disguised calls for the greater weakening of the state in its (already losing) battle with corporates?  

Far be it for me to advocate for less accountability and transparency for public servants, especially in their dealings with corporates. But we also have to remember whose side we are on...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 11th, 2016 at 11:59:14 PM EST
One of the first books I was assigned in my '64 Seminar on European Interwar Diplomacy was Edward Hallett Carr's 'The Twenty Year Crisis: 1919 - 1939. A brilliant book, he contextualizes the subject with a discussion of the role of idealism and realism in policy, illustrated with historical examples. Both were necessary and each needed to be understood in context. Idealism is needed in building support for a program and mobilizing the public, realism is needed to bring the ideals to a practical conclusion. Bungle either and the whole project is endangered or destroyed.

I failed to appreciate that excessively favorable views of the book - in the light of Carr's advocacy of Socialism - made me seem "unsound" instead of brilliant.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 12th, 2016 at 02:49:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you meet that with more transparency. As Sharp points out in from Democracy to Dictatorship the trick is to have strategies that are so good that it doesn't matter that the opponent knows them.

In a Swedish context the Pirate party is pushing (and has gained some traction on the left for) that government functions, even performed in private companies should fall under government transparency rules.

If government isn't transparent I think it is easier for corporations to capture it. Or at least it is harder to tell.

by fjallstrom on Mon Dec 12th, 2016 at 04:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key may be to define in law (and in the constitution, if possible) what functions need to be fully accountable and transparent to the public, regardless of whether they are carried out by government agencies or private contractors. I would include in this Education, Healthcare, public housing, social welfare, environmental emissions, public transport and essential public infrastructure utilities like roads, rail, air, sea, electricity, gas, water.

There is currently a campaign in Ireland to vest the ownership of public water resources in the people via a clause in the constitution to prevent the privatisation of water services at some point in the future.

Article 10 of the Irish Constitution already states:

ARTICLE 10

1: All natural resources, including the air and all forms of potential energy, within the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution and all royalties and franchises within that jurisdiction belong to the State subject to all estates and interests therein for the time being lawfully vested in any person or body.


although vindicating those rights depends on parliament rather than the courts, and it has proven amenable to pressure in the past from the Troika to privatise key national resources.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 12th, 2016 at 07:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A major theme of our group's contribution, which I have just put to bed, is the nurturing of civil society input into policy formation. The register of lobbies would distinguish two categories : for-profit, and civil society. Any decider who consults with an economic lobbyist would be obliged to have a consultation of equal quality with a civil-society lobby. And so on.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Dec 12th, 2016 at 11:33:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the general case, shining a light on existing lobbying processes will not be to the advantage of corporates. Here is an example :

EU sells out precautionary principle for endocrine disruptors

EXCLUSIVE/ The European Commission told the US and Canada that draft EU pesticides laws would "address the concerns" they had over possible trade restrictions on goods exposed to endocrine disruptors.

Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis met with ambassadors from the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay on 13 July this year, a month after the executive published new criteria for the potentially harmful disruptors.

The EU has recently finalised CETA, its free trade agreement with Canada. It is negotiating a similar deal with the US, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The EU is trying to secure another deal with the Mercosur trading bloc, which includes Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

EurActiv.com has obtained Commission minutes of the meeting, which would have remained secret had it not been for a freedom of information application.

The major problem is getting people (other than economic interests) to use the information made available by greater transparency.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Dec 12th, 2016 at 11:41:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe Wikileaks was the last straw that broke the camel's back but in the end this means little. Not being such corrupt scumbags would have solved that. Unless you would argue that we must close the corruption gap and become as relaxed with it as the extreme right there will always be an asymetry here. Overall transperancy serves us better than the corporates.We really shouldn't accept our oponents framing. The war is not between the corporates and the state. It is between the corporates and us over the state. After all they ate very happy to take the states money.
by generic on Fri Dec 16th, 2016 at 04:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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