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Democratic Implications of the Treaty of Lisbon


accountability. As was discussed earlier, trilogues are restricted,

inaccessible and opaque; their memberships neither officially

defined nor public known. In general, a trilogue consists of the

chair of the relevant Council Working Party and the chair of

COREPER, who dominate and are fully involved in the process.

Interaction within trilogues is not structured by codified rules, and

their seclusion is neither formally stipulated, nor publicly justified

(Reh, 2014: 825). This mode of operating narrows down the

number of

de facto

decision makers to a very small set of key

actors, allowing them to command their own sets of information,

exchange views, adjust given legislative proposals at will, and build

reciprocal trust, while other ministers have little possibility to learn

about the course of events (Farrell & Héritier, 2004: 1200-1204;

Jensen & Martinsen, 2012: 8; Kirpsza, 2013: 195).


Another far-reaching effect of trilogues and reaching early

conclusions on Council decision-making is the erosion of the

culture of consensus, or the principle of diffuse reciprocity, which

was deeply embedded in the Council. The culture of consensus and

the principle of diffuse reciprocity characterizes the way Member

States, in reaching legislative compromises within the Council,

respect each other’s vital interests and avoid creating structural

minorities that are consistently overruled in decisions (Farrell &

Héritier, 2004: 1195). The prevalence of trilogues quietly pushed

aside that principle. During trilogue negotiations, representatives

of the Presidency may already be building a coalition with some

few Member States to secure the required number of votes (Kirpsza,

2013: 196). In other words, in order to secure the desired

legislative results, the Council presidency may provide select


Involving increasingly limited number of key actors in policy making behind

closed-doors is a problem not unique to the EU but faced by many

democracies today. The ubiquity of the problem is no reason for the EU to

be complacent with such kind of practices, however. If democracy is already

encountering serious challenges at the national level, copying flawed

practices at the supranational level only complicates the situation and renders

democracy even more vulnerable.