Saturday

13th Apr 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe 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.

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.

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.

Opinion

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

Opinion

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us