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23 May 2014
MEPs suspicious as Commission fails to respond to TTIP questions
Critical questions relating to the controversial TTIP negotiations posed by Green MEPs to the Commission have been left unanswered in recent months, despite it being a procedural requirement that urgent parliamentary questions must be answered within a 3 week period. The delays have prompted some MEPs to suggest that the Commission is purposefully delaying their replies in order to prevent TTIP becoming an issue during the European Elections.
MEPs Ska Keller and Bart Staes, who both submitted questions in March and April, have received no responses to key questions relating to the US-EU trade deal, some of which are now weeks overdue. Although TTIP is likely to be one of the most important items on the political agenda of the next Parliament, last week Trade Commissioner De Gucht openly criticised the Greens for making TTIP an election issue. Today, Bart Staes was not surprised by the lack of response from the Commissioner’s office:
“Knowing De Gucht, we expected that we would only get an answer after the election. We know he does not like democratic debate on TTIP that much. Only last week he was quoted as saying "I will not be dictated by social media", underlining the attitude he has towards the opinions of hundreds of civil society groups that are voicing concerns and protests against TTIP."
Mr. Staes also criticised the Commission’s PR-offensive on TTIP, noting it was becoming evident to them that “the Commission’s communications strategy isn’t working”.
“Just last week we saw how they dealt with the anti-TTIP demonstration in Brussels, while one of the themes of the Business Summit was ironically 'How Can Business Maintain Citizens' Trust?'"
Leading Green candidate Ska Keller’s questions were posted on 13 March, and were due to be answered at the end of April, while Bart Staes’ questions, posted on April 16, were due a response last week. Neither replies have been forthcoming to date.
Yesterday, as the first European countries headed to the polls, the office of Mr Staes has received this reply from the Commission:
"Despite the efforts of the Commission to act speedily, it has not been possible to fully reply to this question with 6 sub-questions and to complete the necessary internal procedures in the Commission within three weeks. Finalisation of the reply, which will remain valid beyond the date of the European elections, is still ongoing."
TTIP has gained traction as an election issue across Europe, with grassroot campaigns calling on candidates not to agree to vote in favour of TTIP in the next legislature. Hundreds of civil society organisations have also publicly written to Trade Commissioner De Gucht requesting more transparency in the talks and demanding that Europe’s high standards are not compromised in the deal.