EU Court allows more access to documents for companies than for citizens

Corporate Europe Observatory writes (CEO):

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

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.”

See CEO’s press release and the ruling.

The Court notes that “an advisory committee was created to assist the Commission in its task and, more specifically, to assist it in the identification of barriers to market access in the third State concerned and of measures capable of eliminating those barriers.”

The Court ruled that by sending documents to experts, including to trade associations with many members, the documents did not enter into the public domain.

The Court also ruled that CEO was not an invited expert, so discrimination was allowed.

I note, regarding expert groups:

– secrecy of negotiations is not full, experts can receive information,

– market access is not the only interest the EU has, there is room for more expert groups, for instance to assist the Commission in the identification of barriers to access to medicines, or to assist the Commission to better safeguard the public interest.

– in the European Parliament only the trade committee has access to documents, while there is essential expertise in other committees as well, and there is essential expertise outside the parliament. As the Commission can make an expert group, couldn’t the Parliament do that as well? (The Commission’s expert group is based on a Council decision.)

But expert groups are not the real answer. Citizen participation will lead to better results, and is a human right. Everyone has the right “to take part freely in an active and informed way, and without discrimination, in any important decision-making process that may have an impact on his or her way of life and on his or her rights under article 15, paragraph 1 (a)” of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The EU should respect our human right to participate.

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