BRUSSELS – Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has today filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman, accusing the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade of discriminating in favour of corporate lobby groups and of attempting to obscure evidence of its close relationship with business from public scrutiny.
The complaint highlights how DG Trade shares negotiation details with corporate lobby groups such as BusinessEurope while deliberately withholding them from public interest groups. It also focuses on the practice of not writing or manipulating minutes about meetings with corporate lobbyists and of unnecessarily delaying responses to information requests about such meetings.
The Ombudsman complaint follows a recently revealed internal DG Trade memo which provides explicit evidence of DG Trade’s approach to information requests from public interest groups .
Corporate Europe Observatory trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt said:
“DG Trade’s policy of revealing information to business but concealing it from the public is not acceptable. Commission departments have a duty to make information available to all interested parties. We want the Ombudsman to ensure that this is what happens in practice and that the Commission stops granting corporate groups privileged access.”
In the complaint, Corporate Europe Observatory asks the Ombudsman to order a u-turn in DG Trade’s information policy and for the full release of information that DG Trade withheld in its responses to Corporate Europe Observatory’s recent requests for access to documents. This includes details of a meeting with BusinessEurope on the EU-India trade negotiations, where information about the role DG Trade grants to BusinessEurope in the negotiations was removed .
Corporate Europe Observatory’s Pia Eberhardt added:
“DG Trade does not appear to be withholding information to protect the EU’s international relations, as it claims, but to hide evidence of its close working relationship with big business. We expect the Ombudsman to support us by upholding the right of citizens to know what is going on.”
Pia Eberhardt, email@example.com, +32 - (0) 2 89 30 930, mobile: +32 - (0) 4 88 68 07 47
 The meeting on the EU-India free trade negotiations between three DG Trade officials and three representatives from BusinessEurope took place on 23 May 2007. The report of the meeting has been partially released to CEO through access to documents request. The deletions parts of the report refer to DG Trade’s responses to questions raised by BusinessEurope during a meeting – questions about the business input DG Trade would find most useful, the kind of documents it might be able to share with BusinessEurope and the way the Commission planned to get European and Indian businesses involved in the negotiations. CEO assumes that the full disclosure of the deleted information would further unveil the close relationship between DG Trade and BusinessEurope.