Eurocrats are cooking up more and more laws in secret, a report shows
Brussels is shutting up shop and deliberating on an ever greater number of intrusive regulations away from the harsh light of public scrutiny, minimising opportunities for criticism and opposition.
Dynamite figures uncovered by an EUobserver investigation show that secret lawmaking is now at its joint highest level ever in the history of the bloc, raising serious questions over the health of European democracy.
Campaigners and politicians today described the development as "astonishing" and said they were "alarmed" by the number of sweeping regulations being cooked up behind closed doors.
The issue revolves around the numbers of Brussels bills, originating from the unelected EU Commission, which are being rushed through without lengthy debates in the EU Parliament.
Democracy campaigners have expressed concern about the development
No laws made it past the first reading process last year
All EU laws are drawn up by Jean-Claude Juncker's army of technocrats and are sent out to to the parliament, made up of 750 elected MEPs, and the EU Council, comprised of ministers and heads of government.
Typically bills used to go through two separate reading processes in the parliament, which allowed them to be publicly debated and challenged and gave the Council the opportunity to adopt its own stance.
But the figures show that not a single law passed in 2016 went to a second reading, compared to more than half which made that legislative stage back in 2004.
The change is significant because typically bills passed at the first reading by the parliament are automatically ratified by the Council without a debate, meaning elected national politicians do not get a say on them.
If you are not pursuing public interest, if you are pursuing more private interest, then the system works I guess much better for you
Jorgo Riss, Greenpeace
It has also vastly increased the use of the controversial trilogue system of decision making, in which representatives from the three institutions cook up compromises on key laws behind closed doors.
Statistics show that 144 trilogue meetings took place last year whilst a whopping 230 were held in 2015.
Former Tory MEP Malcolm Harbour told EUobserver: "There have been quite a number of members of the European Parliament, including myself, who are rather alarmed by this trend."
And Jorgo Riss, from Greenpeace, told the website: "We have the short-cutting of the democratic process, almost going to an extreme now.
"If you are not pursuing public interest, if you are pursuing more private interest, then the system works I guess much better for you."
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The revelations come after a row erupted over changes to the EU decision making process which europhiles claimed will make it more transparent, but eurosceptics blasted as a further attempt to make lawmaking secret.
The reforms, proposed by Labour MEP Richard Corbett, could lead to an increase in the number of decisions being made by trilogue, and were blasted as "explosively dangerous" by eurosceptics.
But the British politician hit back and insisted they will make the EU "more transparent and efficient" and will increase the EU parliament's oversight of the secretive process.