EU's secret minutes

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The Independent Online
From Mr Nigel Haigh

Sir: Your story "EU faces legal storm over backroom deals" (23 June) should at last bring the issue of secret Council minutes into prominence. Anyone who closely studies the implementation of EU directives becomes aware that unpublished Council minutes have been used to alter their intended meaning.

The Institute for European Environmental Policy first came across this in the early 1980s, and drew it to the attention of the European Parliament, which took it up and passed a resolution (Official Journal C172, 2 July 1984.) This called for explanatory declarations recorded in Council minutes to be published together with the relevant directive or regulation. The existence of this resolution is noted in Manual of Environmental Policy: the EC and Britain, which is used by practitioners dealing with EU environmental legislation. The manual gives examples of the practice.

Obviously member states and the Commission must be free to express views on legislation as it goes through the Council and these should be recorded in the minutes, but where recorded statements have the effect of altering the interpretation of legislation, then these statements must be made public.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Haigh


Institute for European

Environmental Policy

London, SW1

23 June