Thursday

28th May 2020

Exclusive

Commission took no minutes at Juncker speech seminar

  • The team of EU commissioners - known collectively as the college - at their annual seminar last August at a chateau outside Brussels (Photo: European Commission)

The secretariat-general of the European Commission has implied it did not produce any written record of what was said during a two-day seminar of commissioners, held in August to prepare the State of the Union speech.

EUobserver asked the commission in an access to documents request to make "all documents" available related to the commission's annual seminar, "including but not limited to minutes, (hand-written) notes, audio recordings, verbatim reports, emails, and presentations".

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 subscribe as a group

  • EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the seminar, where apparently no notes were being taken (Photo: European Commission)

In a reply dated Thursday (13 September), a senior civil servant at the commission's secretariat-general wrote that the commission identified one document that fell under the scope of Euobserver's request.

That document was the invitation letter to members of the commission, informing them of the programme of the two-day seminar, held on 30-31 August at Chateau du Lac in Genval – 17km south-east of the commission's headquarters in Brussels.

The seminar consisted of three sessions devoted to the preparation of the annual State of the Union speech, which commission president Jean-Claude Juncker delivered in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (12 September).

In total, the three sessions lasted six hours.

The reply suggested that no notes or minutes were taken during the seminar.

No rules were broken - the commission is not obliged to produce minutes.

However, not writing anything down about the seminar is remarkable.

When the EU's 28 commissioners – known collectively as the college – meet weekly, detailed minutes are kept and systematically published online.

Lobbyists

The commission's response comes shortly after a response to a separate access to documents request, in which EUobserver asked for any minutes or notes related to Juncker's six meetings with lobbyists this year.

That request also came back empty: no minutes or records were reportedly produced.

While it is unclear how common it is that no minutes are made when EU commissioners meet lobbyists, lobby transparency campaigner Margarida Silva told EUobserver last month that she thought it happened "a lot".

She said at the time, when commenting about meetings held by commissioners Guenther Oettinger (budget) and Miguel Arias Canete (climate) also without any note-taking, that it was a "bad practice" and "very odd".

"If you are having a professional meeting, you take notes," she said.

The EU's regulation on access to documents only gives citizens the right to request information if it is in documents that already exist.

Investigation

Oettinger left no trace of VW Dieselgate meeting

EU commissioner for the digital economy and society, Guenther Oettinger, met with German carmakers in January to discuss "diesel emissions", even though the topic is not in his portfolio.

EUobserved

Juncker, the 'sad and wiser' man of Europe

Despite bold propositions for the EU's future, one could not help feeling the Commission chief's State of the Union address already sounded like a farewell speech.

Exclusive

'Big 3' EU candidates won't pledge lobbyist minutes

EUobserver asked candidates for the presidency of the EU Commission to commit in principle to having minutes taken of their meetings with politicians and lobbyists. The 'Big 3' all said no.

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU Commission's €1.85trn recovery package - key points
  2. Why developing countries may be last to get the vaccine
  3. Budapest to EU: 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word'
  4. EU Commission's green recovery criticised as 'brown'
  5. Mix of loans and grants in Commission €750bn package
  6. EU recovery agreement deal may need 'personal' summit
  7. Little love, as Berlin bids 'auf Wiedersehen' to Trumpism
  8. Future of Europe Conference: Council urged to move now

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us