Fifth Webinar of the ELI Charter of Fundamental Constitutional Principles Series


The webinar, which took place on 6 May, shed light on the Part IV of the ELI Charter on Checks and Balances – Accountability.

Pascal Pichonnaz (ELI President; Professor, University of Fribourg) opened the webinar by welcoming participants and recalling the previous webinars organised within the series.

Project Co-Reporter, Takis Tridimas (Professor, King’s College London), explained the aim of the ELI project and emphasised its added value. The latter lies in the fact that the ELI Charter bridges classic civil liberties with modern challenges like automated decision-making and environmental protection, ensuring its relevance and adaptability to ever-changing circumstances. It also serves as a vital tool for upholding democratic standards in an era of regression. Tridimas went on to explain each of the six principles under Part IV of the charter: Separation of powers (Principle 18), Accountability (Principle 19), Open government and transparency (Principle 20), Good Governance (Principle 21), Anti-corruption (Principle 22) and Non-state parties (Principle 23).

Renáta Uitz (Professor of Law and Government, Royal Holloway, University of London and Senior Research Fellow, Democracy Institute, Central European University, Budapest) focused on Principle 18 – Separation of powers. By way of historical background, Uitz recalled that the division of powers aims to counter tyranny by those in public office and that it took a long time for it to become a feature of constitutional design in Europe. Having highlighted the longstanding trend of executive power expansion, she identified the following risks, in the context of democratic backsliding, namely: illiberal actors exploiting constitutional language to usurp power, in a context in which the same script of executive power arrogation is unfolding. Additionally, among other things she also focused on the relative weakness of supranational constraints on illiberal backsliding in the European public order.

Martin Brusis (Research Manager, University of Wuerzburg, and Advisor to the Sustainable Governance Indicators project) delved into accountability within contemporary democracy theories. Referring to Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry L. Karl’s definition of democracy as a system of government built on accountability, he provided his views on Principle 19 of the Charter. He proposed integrating various accountability forms into a coherent concept grounded in public deliberation. Additionally, Brusis reflected on Principle 21 on good governance, emphasising the role of certain attributes such as participation, inclusion, or openness to reinforce its connection to democracy.

Michal Krajewski (Inquiries Officer, European Ombudsman) discussed Principle 20 on open government and transparency, examining how the principle is manifested in the European Ombudsman’s practice. He elaborated on the latter’s mandate, practices, recent activities, and initiatives and emphasised the citizens’ and civil society organizations’ right to complain to the Ombudsman, linking it to Principles 20 and 21 concerning European governance. Principle 20, inspired by Article 15 of the TFEU, underscores the importance of open decision-making, which the Ombudsman actively promotes, he explained. This principle extends beyond transparency to include enabling citizen participation in policymaking and fostering dialogue with representative associations and civil societies. Finally, Krajewski highlighted the Ombudsman’s recent enquiry into the transparency of legislative documents within the EU's major institutions, the Council, Commission, and Parliament.

While focusing mainly on Principle 22, Yves Van Den Berge (European Prosecutor, European Public Prosecutor's Office, EPPO) conveyed his views on the importance of fighting corruption and establishing anti-corruption policies to protect the democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond. After explaining the mission and competences of EPPO, he added that:

‘I can fully agree with all the principles that are accurately described in the ELI Charter of Fundamental Constitutional Principles. Congratulations to those who drafted and approved the text. As public prosecutors dealing with criminal investigations and prosecutions, we must fully respect the rules and the principles described and imposed by your Charter.’

According to Van Den Berge, Principle 22 aligns well with the European Commission’s anti-corruption package, supporting independent bodies like the EPPO. It shares the same aim to consolidate tools, standardise sanctions, and facilitate prevention and investigation.

The interventions were followed by lively discussions.

More information about the project is available here.

The recording of the webinar is available below.

Other webinars in the series: