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16 May 2014
Council fails to agree on release of EU TTIP mandate
The European Council has failed to agree on releasing the EU mandate on the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, following months of mounting criticism over the lack of transparency of the talks. Greens MEPs have criticised the decision having been the first group in the Parliament to call for the mandate’s release over a year ago. But this call was not supported by the main groups in the Parliament at the time, with only a handful of S&D, and none of the EPP MEPs voting in favour in May 2013.
With TTIP gaining further public exposure as an election issue, the three largest political parties in the Parliament have since changed their tune and called for greater transparency in the negotiations. The Council’s decision is likely to only add to the internal anxiety surrounding the smooth passage of TTIP in the coming 24 months.
With heightened awareness of the risks in countries like Germany and France and a new polarised European Parliament to contend with from June, the failure to publish the EU mandate is being seen a missed opportunity by many. Hopes were raised this week with the Commission publishing several more negotiation positions in the areas of textiles, motor vehicles, chemicals, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. But in the end, eleven Member States voted against the publication of the mandate, including the majority of eastern accession countries, nordic Member States and Ireland the the UK. Germany, France, Belgium and Austria voted in favour.
‘Worst possible signal’
The EU mandate has been readily available online for several months, following a high-profile leak by German Green MEPs in March this year. But even though the mandate’s contents is widely known, there is still a hill to climb when it comes to transparency- as little information exists either publicly or privately regarding the US positioning in the actual negotiations, even by members of the Council.
The Commission negotiators who do have access to the US position texts seem to have consented to a US offer to create ‘read-only’ rooms in agreed locations in Europe, where required persons can have access without the ability to make copies or take notes. That decision, along with the failure to officially publish the EU mandate is sending out the ‘worst possible signal’ says Green MEP, Yannick Jadot:
”While citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the issues at stake and the dangers of the TTIP, the Member States and the European Commission are further locking their negotiations in secrecy and opacity. This is a very telling sign of how the choices we make as a society are being elaborated both without and against citizens’ interests. This is the worst possible signal the EU could give out on its commitment to European democracy!”
The Greens will continue to push for fully transparent talks as an absolute necessity for maintaining citizens trust, something that, in light of yesterday’s mass arrests at a peaceful TTIP demonstration, is badly needed at this time.