A helpful briefing from THE WEEK:
Trilogues, as the name suggests, are informal meetings in which a few key players from each of the EU’s three main institutions – MEPs from the relevant parliamentary committee, officials from the Council and the EC – hammer out a deal on a given policy. Ever since the 2009 Lisbon Treaty stressed the need for speedy decisions, they’ve become, as the EU Observer puts it, “the main engine in the sausage factory that churns out EU laws in Brussels”. The timing of trilogues isn’t known to most MEPs, let alone the public; no minutes are taken; no one knows which of Brussels’s countless lobby groups may have brought pressure to bear. Yet deals made in them are often presented to the EP on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis, thus shortcircuiting the democratic legislative process and making mock of the transparency the parliament was meant to bring to it. Not that transparency is top of the list of MEP concerns. Last year a journalistic investigation exposed a host of dodgy MEP expenses claims; yet MEPs voted
down a subsequent EC proposal to force them to keep their receipts, and have their expenditures audited and made public. The European Court of Justice later upheld the MEPs’ right to keep their spending secret.