Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

Secrecy and Oversight in the European Union: The Law and Practice of Classified Information

PhD defence ceremony Vigjilenca Abazi

11Dec2015 10:00


On 11 December 2015, Vigjilenca Abazi defends her doctoral thesis entitled 'Secrecy and Oversight in the European Union: The Law and Practice of Classified Information'. The event is open to the public.


The growing practice of secrecy in the European Union insulates executive actors from democratic oversight and deprives citizens from meaningful participation in EU decision-making. Despite the recent attention to abuses of secrecy in mass surveillance, very little is known about how secrecy actually works at the EU level.

This interdisciplinary dissertation examines how official secrets impede the realisation of democratic scrutiny and fundamental rights in the European Union. It maps the regulatory regime of official secrets and investigates the practice drawing from 40 interviews with the EU officials, MEPs, experts, and civil activists. It provides a systematic and comprehensive analysis of secrecy and evaluates its complex ramifications from a democratic perspective. The focus of the thesis is on the Area of Freedom Security and Justice and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, but the findings are more broadly applicable considering that the regulatory regime of classified information is established across policy fields.

The thesis finds that the inaccessibility of official secrets is a recurrent problem in the interplay between executive prerogatives to secrecy and processes of oversight. The EU oversight institutions have incorporated confidentiality rules that disproportionality affect public deliberation and fundamental rights but do not limit the executives’ discretion on final disclosure. Adaptations to the EU constitutional oversight structure have been pragmatically developed behind closed doors leading to an administrative practice that legally thrives outside EU primary law

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