Brussels – Corporate Europe Observatory and other civil society groups have today called upon the European Commission to act against DG Trade's secretive information policy. In an open letter to President Barroso, Trade Commissioner Ashton, Transparency Commissioner Kallas and Communication Commissioner Wallström, the organisations highlighted an internal DG Trade memo, which encourages staff to conceal information about meetings with lobbyists in case of access to information requests.
The open letter urges the President and the Commissioners to undertake an urgent review of DG Trade's access to documents policy. The groups also want DG Trade to immediately release documents which have been withheld from public scrutiny as a result of the policy.
The leaked memo, revealed last month, advises officials to avoid remarks about informal meetings with industry representatives in emails which might be subject to information requests. It also suggests staff keep two types of meeting reports, so that politically controversial issues, internal assessments of meetings and follow-up proposals do not need to be disclosed. The memo refers particularly to reports about meetings with third parties such as industry as these are “favourite 'targets' of requests for access to documents, especially by NGOs”, the briefing explains .
The signatories of the letter, which include the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU) and the Seattle to Brussels network (S2B), say this is a blatant departure from the EU's bid for greater transparency and accessibility of EU policies .
Corporate Europe Observatory trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt said:
“The briefing is another outrageous chapter in DG Trade's long history of hiding its close ties with corporate lobbyists from public scrutiny. It unmasks the department's alleged commitment to transparency and to dialogue with civil society as nothing but a lip service.”
But DG Trade continues to claim to be working with civil society as a two day meeting later this month entitled “The EU and civil society: working together for fair and open trade” shows .
CEO's Pia Eberhardt added:
“DG Trade's exposed deceptive information policy towards civil society demonstrates that this meeting is a barefaced PR exercise aimed to creating an illusion of dialogue and cooperation where there has never been one. We hope that other civil society groups do not buy into it.”
Pia Eberhardt, firstname.lastname@example.org, ++32 - (0)4 88 68 07 47
 DG Trade’s internal memo on access to documents can be downloaded from the website Wikileaks.
 The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU) is a coalition of over 160 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms concerned with the increasing influence of corporate lobbyists over the political agenda in Europe. The Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) includes more than 60 organisations – development, environment, human rights, women and farmers organisations, trade unions, social movements as well as research institutes – that aims at transforming the EU's corporate-driven trade agenda into a truly sustainable, fair, social and gender-oriented development agenda.