Friday

3rd Apr 2020

EUobserved

Weber's 'black box' dilemma

  • Manfred Weber's EPP group forced through a secret ballot in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to derail transparency measures at the EU parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

On Wednesday (26 June), Manfred Weber argued that the EU is perceived as a "black box" that people have no control over.

"That's why my main goal is to bridge the gap between 'Brussels' and the citizens," said Weber, in a tweet.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Yet four months ago, the European People's Party (EPP) group, the biggest in the parliament and under Weber's leadership, forced through a secret ballot on greater transparency at the European Parliament.

The group triggered a rarely-used parliamentary rule that allows MEPs to hide their individual votes from the public in a plenary vote.

The proposal in question was aimed at making it somewhat easier for the public to understand how EU law is shaped.

Although eventually, despite the outright opposition from Weber's EPP, the proposals passed anyway in early February.

Pressed to explain, his spokesperson told this website after the vote that Weber was against any system where only registered lobbyists have access to MEPs.

He instead said the system should be voluntary, which is diplomatic code for no system at all.

It is also unclear how forcing a rarely-used secret ballot, in order to curb transparency, helps Weber's stated goal of bridging Brussels with the people.

Trying to wipe clean any legislative paper-trail of meetings only appears to increase the perception that the EU is indeed a "black box".

True motives?

The whole suggests that Weber's true intention lays elsewhere as his bid to become the next European Commission president slips away.

Weber says he has the legitimate claim to the presidency post, because his EPP group again emerged as the strongest party from the EU elections, in a process known as the Spitzenkandidat.

But Weber issuing warnings in defence of the Spitzenkandidat system is somewhat odd given his own recent history.

In an op-ed, published in his native Die Welt on Wednesday, he writes people want to have a say and an influence on EU matters.

"They no longer accept things' being decided outside the public space and without their participation," he says.

At the same time, Weber and his party tried to deny the right of citizens to see how their elected MEPs voted on a transparency issue.

He had deliberately obscured the vote, making it impossible for the public to hold their own elected MEPs to account.

The point was driven home by Weber's colleague, German MEP Daniel Caspary.

He told this website in January that a secret ballot was necessary to avoid a backlash from the public.

"We clearly say that the big majority of our group is against those measures and we say this publicly, but we see the big pressure, and because [of that] therefore we can't [have an open ballot] to protect the other members," he said.

That protection from public scrutiny is an essential building block of Weber's black box dilemma. If anything, it only serves to weaken his commission presidency bid even further.

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

Feature

Spitzenkandidaten debate in Maastricht minus Weber

Five candidates discussed what they would do if they were the next president of the European Commission. But the big absentee of the evening was the candidate of the European People's Party.

Key states push Timmermans for commission president

The Angela Merkel-inspired 'Osaka plan' to nominate socialist Frans Timmermans as the commission president hit major roadblocks within her own party alliance the EU 'top jobs' summit kicked off in Brussels.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  2. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis
  3. EU fighting shortages and faulty medical supplies
  4. New EU navy operation to keep migrant details secret
  5. MEP: Constituents are our window into this tragedy
  6. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  7. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  8. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us