Counter to what a lot of academics, media, politicians and conspiracy theorists would have us believe, I would argue that European Union politics is very open, accessible and transparent. True, the sheer complexity of the process makes it very difficult to follow, but at the end of the day, if you have the time, resources and energy you can monitor and influence EU policy.
Having said this, there are parts of European lawmaking which are murkier, shadier and less easy to follow. They are what I call the shadier parts of the EU process; moments where there are no camera's, meeting-minutes, rapports or public access. They are not only troublesome because there is no possibility for public scrutiny, but also because of the limited access for Public Affairs professionals .
Roll-call votes at committees
Parliamentary Committees are a crucial part of the EU decision process. They compose experts and coordinators of the various political families and their votes are used for group whipping. It is all the more strange that votes in Parliamentary committees are not subject to roll-call. Meaning that after the voting has taken place there isn't a registration showing who exactly voted in which way. An effort by the British MEP Andrew Duff to change this was rejected by the EP constitutional affairs committee. Some MEP's argued that it would be technically difficult to implement, which of course is baloney.
First Reading Trialogues
Rules 70 of the European Parliament allows Committees and Committee members to negotiate with Council before a proposal goes to vote (either in committee or plenary). The members negotiating with Council have to -in principle- take a decision by a majority of its members and adopt a mandate on the poltical orientations and priorities. However in practice negotiations take place in various forms, both formally and informally. In Brussels, everybody talks to everybody. As a consequence more and more proposals are being adopted in first reading. This avoids lengthy legislative processes, however it makes it much more difficult to monitor and scrutinize whats going on.
When a law is adopted there will still be a need for some decision making in the implementation phase. For example when a law on prohibited substances is made there still the necessity to draw up a list of substances or products. Because it would be silly to open up legislation and go through the whole co-decision process again, decision-makings-powers can be delegated to the European Commission. This used to be called Comitology, but after the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty it is now called "Delegated Acts". Whatever the name, it boils down to the Commission making decisions without consulting Parliament or Council. It has been criticized for opening up the back-door for ambiguous decisions. Lisbon has made it a bit more transparent because Council and Parliament have to agree upfront till wha extent they will allow Commission to decide, and moreover they can actually block decisions made under "Delegated Acts."
In Camera meetings
The Rules of Procedure state that hearings and testimony in the European Parliament shall take place in public. However, proceedings can take place in camera if this is requested by one quarter of the members of the committee of inquiry, or by the Community or national authorities, or where the temporary committee of inquiry is considering secret information. In practice In Camera meetings have been called on different occasions while the reason for doing so wasn't always clear. Moreover, the European Parliament never disclosed which members actually called for the meeting to be behind closed doors.