4 July, Brussels – Yesterday the European Court of Justice ruled (1) that access to documents relating to international activity would not be automatically exempt from EU transparency requirements. This decision opens the possibility for the European Commission to make public papers relating to the EU-US trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
EPHA welcomes the ruling and calls for the release of all TTIP documents into the public sphere and for the Directorate-General for Trade to coordinate further mechanisms for the public to express their opinions on the content of the documents.
EPHA congratulates the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sophie in’t Veld’s (ALDE, Netherlands) for her victory (2) which will hopefully lead to more transparency in a trade agreement that will affect 40% of the world’s trade.
“Yesterday’s ruling has the potential to ease the secrecy around these crucial trade negotiations. The current secrecy around the negotiations threatens European democracy and faith in the European institutions at a time when we need to be encouraging policy makers to be more open to the needs of the people. The secretive way the TTIP negotiations have been conducted are creating a climate of fear and further distrust,” said Emma Woodford, EPHA Interim Secretary General.
While the Court Decision is a good starting point, it does not yet go quite far enough as it leaves aside negotiating documents, those relating to strategy or those revealing the positions of foreign parties (3). In addition, the Council and Commission can still refuse access to any part of the legal advice which is mentioned in that mandate.
This month the European Commission will host a sixth round of EU-US trade talks on the TTIP. Issues relating to manufacturing, agriculture, services, investment and public procurement, rules regarding State-owned-enterprises and Small and Medium Enterprises will all be discussed according to the public stakeholder invitations now available on the DG Trade website (4). Publication of the European Union’s proposals regarding these areas would enable health professionals and those working in alcohol control to be able to pro-actively engage with the negotiators in a more meaningful manner.
“Trade negotiations should not turn into a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ to lower standards in healthcare, the environment, services, consumer policy,” added Emma Woodford. "The European Court of Justice’s ruling will allow civil society to better examine crucial areas such as market access, public services and regulatory convergence. Our watchdog role has been undermined by secrecy regulations on both sides of the Atlantic preventing public access to these documents. Transparency requirements should be always an integral part of EU trade negotiations,” concluded Ms Woodford.
(1) Judgment of the Court (First Chamber) 3 July 2014. Appeal — Access to documents of the institutions — Regulation (EC) No 1 049/2001.
(2) Dutch liberal Sophie in ’t Veld wins transparency lawsuit against the Council of Ministers, ALDE Press Release, 3 July
(3) TTIP documents could be made public after EU court ruling, Euractiv, 4 July
(4) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Stakeholder events Round 6, Brussels, Directorate-General for Trade (European Commission), 24 June
Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at email@example.com org or +32 (0) 2 230 3076.