EU's law-makers 'should be televised' to demystify process

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Britain is calling on the European Union to televise its main law-making forum, in a move which would revolutionise the secret gatherings of European ministers.

The proposal, which ministers say is gaining support from other member states, is likely to be raised at the Laeken summit in Belgium on Friday and could be put in place as early as next year.

The Government believes the idea would show the public that elected ministers from the 15 member states – rather than faceless bureaucrats – are taking decisions.

Peter Hain, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said the plan would make it clear that legislation in Brussels is not part of "some federal superstate plot". He said: "One of the big problems about the gap between institutions and citizens is that people don't have a clear image of European decision-making as they do ... with the UN Security Council."

EU leaders will decide at the Laeken summit who should head a new review on the future of Europe as well as drawing up its terms of reference. Plans to open meetings of the Council of Ministers could be part of this process, which will lead to a new governing EU treaty in 2004. Member states could also proceed more swiftly by amending the rules of procedure.

British officials were optimistic that Belgium, holder of the EU's rotating presidency, would dilute a draft declaration setting up the review. It includes an extension of qualified majority voting in the Council and would hand more power to the European Parliament. Britain believes the draft prejudges the review, although Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, hinted that Britain would agree to more majority voting.