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04 August 2014

EU Ombudsman steps up TTIP transparency pressure

Separate investigations into the Commission and Council launched

Simon McKeagney, Editor

Two investigations initiated by the European Ombudsman into transparency concerns around TTIP have added further weight to arguments against the secrecy surrounding the deal. Emily O’Reilly announced the opening of two cases on July 31, with one case targeting the Council, and the other the European Commission. 

In letters addressed to both institutions, the Ombudsman said that the negotiations are “of significant public interest given their potential impact on the lives of citizens” and that she was concerned in particular with “the extent to which the public can follow the progress of these talks and contribute to shaping their outcome."

Last month, a chorus of MEPs criticised the Commission over its lack of transparency, in particular for agreeing with a US proposal to set up secure reading rooms, where joint EU-US ‘consolidated’ texts will be housed. Only a selected few MEPs will have access, and they will not be authorised to write or talk about what the texts contain. Some MEPs have suggested that this goes against the EU Treaties that state the Parliament must be ‘immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure’ regarding trade negotiations, an impossibility under the agreed system. Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has defended the reading rooms agreement, saying that he is dependant on changes taking place on Capitol Hill before any further transparency efforts could be made in this regard. 

The Ombudsman’s letters do not specifically mention the reading room issue, but rather calls on both institutions to take a proactive approach to transparency. She calls on the Council to publish the EU mandate for the negotiations, a document leaked online earlier this year, while raising a series of suggestions to the Commission on how to increase the level of transparency, such as the creation of a “public register of TTIP documents” which would allow the public to “make their fundamental right of public access to documents effective, [and] be in a position to know what documents there are.”

Read the press release here.

Read the Ombudsman’s letter to the Council here.

Read the Ombudsman’s letter to the Commission here.

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Tom Voute

Direct contact details for Mr De Gucht are:

|Email: Karel.DE-GUCHT@ec.europa.eu By fax: (+32-02) 29 80899

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