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Balancing seclusion and inclusion: EU trilogues and democratic accountability

Authors:

Guri Rosén, OsloMet & Anne Elizabeth Stie, UiA

Abstract

This article assesses how trilogues affect the possibilities to hold the European Parliament to account from the perspectives of democracy as political equality and democracy as epistemic quality. Trilogues, informal and secluded meetings between a limited number of participants, have become standard operating procedure for reaching legislative decisions in the EU. Trilogues are defended because they provide efficient settings where decision-makers can discuss more freely but are also criticised for hindering open and inclusive decision-making processes. Despite recent rule reforms, we argue that the democratic problem with trilogues is not their informal or secluded character per se, but that the compromises reached in these settings are not sufficiently linked to or discussed among the collective of MEPs in arenas where external actors have access to legislators’ arguments and debates. When internal and external accountability is not linked, legislative proposals are deprived of sufficient democratic authorisation.