Blow for citizens as EU court backs privileged corporate access to EU trade talks

Dangerously legitimising the European Commission's practice of granting privileged access to trade talks to corporate lobby groups, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has today ruled against Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) in an appeal over Commission conduct during the EU-India trade negotiations.

In a decision that risks deepening the secrecy shrouding EU trade policy, the CJEU confirmed that the Commission did not violate EU access to documents rules by sharing information about the talks with big business lobbies while keeping it hidden from the public.

CEO filed the original lawsuit in February 2011 after the Commission refused to release documents - including meeting reports, emails and a letter - related to the ongoing negotiations with India. The documents in question had already been shared with industry groups such as employers’ federation BusinessEurope but were deemed 'sensitive' and 'confidential' when access was requested by CEO in the public interest. CEO then took the Commission to the General Court of the EU for favouring corporate lobby groups at the expense of others and violating EU access to information rules. Today's ruling comes following an appeal by CEO against the judgement of the General Court on the case in June 2013.

Reacting to the appeal ruling, CEO trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt said:

“Its a sad day for citizens when the European Court of Justice effectively sanctions the Commission's secretive collaboration with, and for, a tiny elite of corporate lobby groups. Particularly baffling is that this ruling comes in the context of growing public pressure against the current direction of EU trade policy.”

Despite today's ruling, the Commission will continue to face increased public and political pressure for its one-sided approach to the EU-US trade talks (TTIP), making it politically impossible to carry on disregarding concerns about the proposals, and calls for transparency and balance.

“The issues of privileged access for big business and the lack of transparency have been at the heart of the massive opposition that has confronted TTIP. Trade deals that cater for big business needs and works against the interests of the bulk of the population in Europe and beyond will not be accepted by citizens,” Eberhardt said.


Pia Eberhardt, Corporate Europe Observatory

+49 152 563 09 102

Further reading:

Link to ruling:


Business access to trade talks:

Example of business access to talks, Peter Mandelson's letter to BusinessEurope: mandelsons_letter_to_businesseurope.pdf

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