Black Box EU - FAQ

What is "Black Box EU"?

Black Box EU is a campaign by FragDenStaat. The aim of the campaign is to make all 4-column documents from EU trilogues public with the help of freedom of information requests.

What are trilogues?

In the EU, the Parliament, the Commission and the Council decide on laws together. To reach agreement, representatives of the three institutions meet in trilogues to negotiate a compromise. The minutes of these meetings remain secret. If the institutions agree in the trilogue, the draft is formally adopted in the ordinary legislative process.

What are the documents?

The 4-column documents are basically the minutes of the trilogues. One column each contains the positions of the Parliament, Commission and Council on the draft, with different opinions marked (often in colour). The fourth column records the compromise on which the institutions agree.

Why should these documents be published?

80% of all EU laws and decisions go through one or more trilogue negotiations. A big part of the legislative process takes place in secret. If the trilogue documents are public, we can see, for example, which institution proposes which legislative changes or on which points there is disagreement. The documents are also interesting afterwards, when they are implemented by national parliaments or in court, because they can shed light on what the purpose of a certain wording was.

How can I get involved?

File one (or more) requests to the European Parliament. The request texts are already pre-written, you just have to choose a trilogue you are interested in. 

Why are some of the requests in German?

FragDenStaat offers freedom of information requests in Germany and the EU, so a lot of our users are from Germany and will send requests in German. The final 4-column-documents however will always be provided in English. If you need help with translating anything, we recommend Deepl.

Is it legal to publish these documents?

Yes. EU Regulation 1049/2001 regulates public access to official EU documents. A 2018 European Court ruling confirmed that the 4-column documents from Trilogues must be released based on this regulation.

Why doesn't the EU publish the documents itself?

Good question. The EU itself is working on its own public database of relevant legislative documents - but in the area of trilogues, only the finalised compromises from successfully concluded negotiations are to be published. The actual negotiations remain secret.

May I use the documents for something else?

Of course! We welcome any reports and analyses from journalists, NGOs, academics and others. The documents must be available to all. We encourage you to publish or link to the original documents when you re-use them, so that others can see them too.

The document I am interested in is not in the list.

The source for the list of trilogues is the EU Parliament's legislative observatory, which lists ongoing legislative proposals. If a proposal is not listed there, it might still be in the making, or negotiations have already concluded. In any case, you can still file a request to ask what the current status of the proposal is.

The document I am interested in has already been requested, but has not received a reply.

Clicking the button "View request" will take you to the request page. There you can follow the request in the top right-hand corner. You will then be informed by e-mail when the request receives an answer.

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