BIALL workshop: European Union information, 21 March 2016. A review

SLLG member, Jane Condie of the Advocates Library successfully applied for an SLLG bursary to allow her to attend a BIALL workshop on EU information. This is Jane’s review of the course.

 

Course: BIALL Workshop – European Union Information

Trainer: Ian Thomson, Director of the European Documentation Centre, Cardiff University and Executive Editor of European Sources Online.

With the aid of a bursary from SLLG, I was able to attend a one day course at the University of the West of England – Frenchay Campus, Bristol last month. I stayed in a pleasant (but odd) guest house a few miles away from the venue – which made for an enjoyable walk to get there in the morning.

The Frenchay campus of UWE was unexpectedly large so I was fortunate to meet up with another course attendee at the gate. We navigated the way together. On arrival we were surprised by how un-library-ish the library building looked, but the presence of a large Shaun the Sheep statue reassured us we were in the right place (“…can you please meet us beside the Shaun the Sheep – Justice Baa Lamb – that is just inside the entrance to the Library…”).

Although the welcome was warm and the refreshments were yummy, I’m afraid I found this workshop somewhat disappointing. This was due, in part, to my having previously attended Ian Thomson’s course for the SLLG in 2013, but it had a good bit to do with organisational problems and an overly optimistic course timetable.

I will present my review using the course structure for headings:

Brief Introduction to the European Union
Key Institutions – Legislative Acts and Judicial decisions – How policy is made – Role of committees – Challenges

This introductory section was timetabled to last for only one hour. In practice it took up almost the entire morning. There was undoubtedly a lot of very interesting stuff here but as someone who has both attended his previous course and worked with Eur-lex for several years, I didn’t gain much new information.

Also, due to a breakdown in communication/organisation we spent more than half of the morning session without access to the detailed PowerPoint – full of links and information – the trainer had supplied. Neither he nor the organisers thought to direct us to, or even mention, the copy waiting for us on the university’s shared drive! We were just sitting in front of useless computers, listening to him talk. I don’t feel I lost out too much from this error but for those attendees new to EU law, the morning must have been an absolute blur of incomprehension.

However, I did learn about the existence of ‘Trilogues’ in the EU legislative process. About 85% of new legislative proposals have gone through this process in recent years. It speeds things up considerably but there is an issue about transparency. Although the Trilogues are not exactly secret there is no real way to obtain documents from these Trilogue sessions. The European Ombudsman is conducting a public consultation on the transparency of Trilogues. This is definitely something I’ll be keeping an eye on in future.

Searching for EU information / Guides to terminology
Search engines – EUROPA – FIND-eR – EU Bookshop – European Sources Online – Glossary – Eurojargon – IATE – Machine translation

A highlight of this section for me was probably the Search Europa site. This is basically a Google powered site, set up by the European Journalism Centre, to search the whole EUROPA portal. Ian thinks it’s better than Europa’s own search engine.

He also mentioned a number of archives which have digitised the kind of really old documents that are currently not available via Europa. He mentioned an American site – Archive of European Integration (AEI) – in particular.

Legislative and judicial information sources
EUR-LEX – Summaries of EU Legislation – Procedures (formerly PreLex) / Legislative Observatory – National Implementing Measures (NIMs) – Official Journal – COM Documents – Case law – Legal citations

There wasn’t much new information here sadly. I did however learn something interesting about the Commission’s new policy to improve the drafting of EU legislation: Consolidation, Codification and Recasting.

Consolidation has been used for a while in an attempt to simplify much amended legislation. Consolidated legislation is useful but not authoritative.

Codification brings together one or more Consolidated acts into one. The new piece of legislation passes through the full legislative process and replaces the older act(s).

Recasting is similar to Codification, in that it brings together one or more Consolidated acts, passes through the full legislative process and replaces the older acts. However, Recasting will also include substantive changes and amendments to the existing legislation. Ian Thomson says that this will be the preferred method in future.

Policy monitoring
Key documents to follow the activities of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Council, EU Presidency, European Parliament – European External Action Service – Registers of documents

According to my notes we seem to have pretty much skipped this section due to lack of time. Instead we engaged in a fairly lengthy ‘practical’ session which I didn’t find useful at all.

Role of an EU member State in the creation, adoption and implementation of EU law (using the UK as a case study)
Government – Government Departments – Parliament – MEPs – European Commissioners – Economic and Social Committee (etc)

This was the section I was most interested in, due to some recent enquiries I’ve had. I had been hoping for some insight into the location of implementation documentation but it wasn’t much more than a disappointingly vague overview of the process.

Keeping-up-to-date
EU sources: EU Press Room – RAPID – EU Calendar – TV and web-streaming
Non-EU sources: EUObserver – EurActiv – Politico – Europe Media Monitor – Newspapers – Radio and TV – ESO – Blogs – Social media

Nothing noteworthy mentioned here.

~~~~~

I’m sorry if this report seems unduly harsh but I really was hoping for more from this workshop. However, in a spirit of optimism and positivity, I will finish by listing three things I did get from the day.

I learned about:

  1. The existence of ‘Trilogues’ in the EU legislative process.
  2. Digital archives of old EU documents.
  3. Consolidation, Codification and Recasting.

Thanks for the bursary SLLG!

Justicelordshaun

Justice Baa Lamb – lives in the UWE Frenchay library now

 

Thanks for the review of this course, Jane. If any member would like to apply for a bursary as Jane did, to allow you to attend training, please see details in the members’ only section of the group webpages or talk to a member of the committee. 

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