Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Court ruling fails to stop business lobbies' privileged access in EU-India trade talks

  • Dansk
  • Nederlands
  • English
  • Suomi
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Ελληνικά
  • Italiano
  • Bokmål
  • Polski
  • Portuguese
  • Română
  • Slovenščina
  • Español
  • Svenska

In a ruling delivered today following a lawsuit by lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg concludes that the European Commission did not violate EU rules when withholding information about the EU-India free trade talks from the public, even though it had already shared the information with corporate lobby groups. Corporate Europe Observatory warns that this decision risks deepening the secrecy around EU trade negotiations and legitimises the Commission’s practice of granting corporate lobby groups privileged access to its policy-making, at the expense of the wider public interest.

The lawsuit, which was filed in February 2011, was a last resort for Corporate Europe Observatory after the Commission refused to fully release documents related to the EU’s ongoing trade negotiations with India, including meeting reports, emails and a letter, which it had sent to industry groups including the European employers’ federation BusinessEurope, one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in Brussels. The Commission claimed that the censored information was 'sensitive' as it concerned EU priorities and strategies in the negotiations and argued that public disclosure would undermine the EU’s international relations.

Corporate Europe Observatory argued that the information, which the Commission had already shared with the business world at large, could not suddenly become confidential when a public interest group asked for it. The group accused the Commission of manifest discrimination in favour of corporate lobby groups and violating the EU’s access to information rules.

In a first reaction to the ruling, Corporate Europe Observatory trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt said:

“There is a big risk that the Commission will see the court ruling as a green light to continue to develop its trade policy behind closed doors, together with, and for, a tiny elite of corporate lobby groups. The result is a trade policy that caters for big business needs, but works against the interests of the bulk of the population in the EU and other parts of the world.”

The judgement comes as the EU and India are reportedly sorting out their lastdifferences, in order to ink their final proposal for a free trade deal before elections in the EU and in India in 2014. On both sides, trade unions, farmers’ groups, patients' organisations and other civil society groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the potentially devastating impacts of the agreement, particularly on access to medicines and the livelihoods of Indian farmers and street traders.

CEO believes that the court ruling has potentially serious implications for other trade policies, such as the upcoming free trade negotiations between the EU and the US.

“Citizens and Parliamentarians are increasingly worried about the risks that the EU’s corporate trade agenda poses to food safety, digital rights and environmental protection. Trade negotiations should be conducted in an open and democratically-accountable way, and it is high time that the Commission stops handing over the negotiating agenda to multinational companies. It is disappointing that the court ruling seems to point in exactly the opposite direction”, stated Pia Eberhardt.

Corporate Europe Observatory will now carefully analyse the ruling and consider next steps. A potential appeal would need to be filed within two months and ten days.

 

 

Related issues: 
 

CEO just responded to the European Ombudsman’s public consultation on transparency in the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), outlining suggestions for ending the secrecy in the EU-US trade talks.
Answer the call from the D19-20 Alliance in Belgium to take to the streets against TTIP and austerity on Friday 19th December 2014, as the second day of the European Council Summit unfolds
Open letter on TTIP and financial regulations to U.S. and EU negotiators from civil society organisations
Dozens of civil society groups from all across Europe have released a joint statement denouncing EU plans for regulatory cooperation as well as the continued secrecy surrounding the talks.
A crusade for big business-friendly deregulation, waged during José Manuel Barroso's Presidency of the European Commission, shows no signs of stopping. This neoliberal push to weaken or block new legislation appears likely to expand with Jean-Claude Juncker's new Commission team.
Our correspondence with Pr. Anne Glover, the current Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission (CSA), on her role in the European Commission's review of endocrine disrupting chemicals shows how the very existence of her position was used by business-friendly interests to convey key messages to the top of the European Commission's hierarchy, playing a determining role in the massive delay now inflicted to the European Commission's handling of this important public health regulation. We ask that the CSA position is not renewed in the new Juncker Commission.
Will EFSA become more transparent, and to lobbyists or scientists? After its public consultation on its draft transparency policy, the Authority must now choose.
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) today criticised the plenary vote of MEPs to approve the Jean-Claude Juncker Commission.

Corporate Europe Forum