In recent years trade deals as TTIP, ACTA, TISA, TPP, SOPA etc. face a public call for greater transparency. Relevant trade institutions responded to it, released documents and promotional material. Though the European Commission, mandated by the Lisbon Treaty to conduct its work “as openly as possible”, concluded confidentiality agreements with negotiating partners, on unknown legal grounds, that give a pretext to deny access to incoming documents. While the legacy document access rules don’t provide for better access to existing documents the European institutions released more official documents, often documents that were previously leaked.
What the wider public knows about the agreements is largely based on leaks. The overall change are not the leaks – lobby groups and NGOs always have greater insights than they formally should – but the worldwide dissemination of them. Luc Devigne from DG Trade once claimed it was their policy not to comment on leaks. Yet, we have no evidence that such a policy actually exists and was not simply made up by him for convenience. These days the Commission responds to allegations on the basis of leaks.
What’s interesting is that we hear about a Wikileaks fundraiser for TTIP leaks. They want to collect 100 000 EUR. Some media outlets interpreted it as a “bounty” for TTIP leakers but it may be also a plan to monetize upcoming leaks. In any case the fundraiser seems to contravene the classical narrative of Wikileaks as a neutral intermediary, a trusted third party clearinghouse, that has been abandoned long time ago by the website.
Vigilante leaks are no substitute for real lawful transparency under the Lisbon Treaty via reform of EC/1049/2001.