[ddj] Court ruling fails to stop business lobbies' privileged access in EU-India trade talks

Olivier Hoedeman olivier at corporateeurope.org
Fri Jun 7 11:24:45 UTC 2013

Dear all,

as you may have heard, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) launched a 
court case against the European Commission in 2011, challenging the 
Commission's practice of withholding information related to the EU's 
free trade talks with India, discriminating in favour of corporate lobby 
groups and violating the EU's transparency rules.

Today, the EU's General Court in Luxembourg delivered its ruling, 
unfortunately supporting the Commission. Our press release with a first 
assessment of the ruling is below.

friendly greetings

Olivier Hoedeman
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

*Court ruling fails to stop business lobbies' privileged access in 
EU-India trade talks*


Brussels, 7 June ? In a ruling 
<http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=138132&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=665977> 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.

The lawsuit 
which was filed in February 2011, was a last resort for Corporate Europe 
Observatory after the Commission refused to fully release documents 
related to the EU?s ongoing trade negotiations with India, including 
meeting reports, emails and a letter, which it had sent to industry 
groups including the European employers? federation BusinessEurope, one 
of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in Brussels. The Commission 
claimed that the censored information was 'sensitive' as it concerned EU 
priorities and strategies in the negotiations and argued that public 
disclosure would undermine the EU?s international relations.

Corporate Europe Observatory argued that the information, which the 
Commission had already shared with the business world at large, could 
not suddenly become confidential when a public interest group asked for 
it. The group accused the Commission of manifest discrimination in 
favour of corporate lobby groups and violating the EU?s access to 
information rules.

In a first reaction to the ruling, Corporate Europe Observatory trade 
campaigner Pia Eberhardt said:

?There is a big risk that the Commission will see the court ruling as a 
green light to continue to develop its trade policy behind closed doors, 
together with, and for, a tiny elite of corporate lobby groups. The 
result is a trade policy that caters for big business needs, but works 
against the interests of the bulk of the population in the EU and other 
parts of the world.?

The judgement comes as the EU and India are reportedly sorting out their 
last differences, in order to ink their final proposal for a free trade 
deal before elections in the EU and in India in 2014. On both sides, 
trade unions, farmers? groups, patients' organisations and other civil 
society groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the potentially 
devastating impacts of the agreement, particularly on access to 
medicines and the livelihoods of Indian farmers and street traders.

CEO believes that the court ruling has potentially serious implications 
for other trade policies, such as the upcoming free trade negotiations 
between the EU and the US.

?Citizens and Parliamentarians are increasingly worried about the risks 
that the EU?s corporate trade agenda poses to food safety, digital 
rights and environmental protection. Trade negotiations should be 
conducted in an open and democratically-accountable way, and it is high 
time that the Commission stops handing over the negotiating agenda to 
multinational companies. It is disappointing that the court ruling seems 
to point in exactly the opposite direction?, stated Pia Eberhardt.

Corporate Europe Observatory will now carefully analyse the ruling and 
consider next steps. A potential appeal would need to be filed within 
two months and ten days.

* * * * * * * * * * *

P i a   E b e r h a r d t
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Cranachstraße 48
50733 Cologne

www.corporateeurope.org <http://www.corporateeurope.org>
Tel.: ++49 (0)221 789 678 10
Mobile: ++49 (0) 152 56 30 91 02
pia at corporateeurope.org <mailto:pia at corporateeurope.org>
skype: piaebse

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