November 4, 2015

How the European Commission may solve the Trade Transparency gap

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Citizen enjoy a right of access to documents enshrined in the EU treaties. However, when they ask about documents from the ongoing trade negotiations (TTIP, TISA,…) access had usually been refused by the institutions. The reason for that unwillingness is the legal base of the public requests: EC/1049/2001.

The EU sunshine law regulation EC/1049/2001 is from 2001 and does not:
– include European case law after 2001
– new rights under the Lisbon treaty
– transparency for trade procedures, even when they enter the regulatory domain

2008 a recast reform was launched. This reform was voted in Parliament but struck down in the Council under the Danish Presidency. The legislative process in first reading is still pending. The European Commission can at any time make a new legislative proposal (amend its position) under the same procedure. These days politicians on the national and European level often admit their discomfort with the current rules. The straight solution for the European Commission is to present a new legislative proposal that takes better account of the public interest in trade policy transparency.

At present European institutions go beyond 1049 and even the European Commission is more permissive in disclosure as the legal base provides. Many documents are released on the base of inter-institutional agreements.

The alternative are recurring debates about lack of transparency in trade matters within specific trade initiatives such as ACTA, TTIP, CETA, TISA and more, where the institutions always refuse access to documents under the same legal base: EC/1049/2001. Citizens may bang their heads against the institutions, Parliament may adopt resolutions asking for better transparency, interests group may write letters, ombudsmen may investigate individual cases over and over again.

Take this stone to kill that bird: If you want trade transparency please ask the European Commission to provide solutions within the procedure 2008/0090/COD, specifically to present a new legislative proposal to Parliament and Council.