Deal troubles: EU blamed of favouring corporate lobbies

Vidya Ram London | Updated on February 16, 2011 Published on February 16, 2011

The manner in which EU institutions conduct their negotiations have been challenged by an advocacy group, which is using the India-EU free trade agreement to make their point.

The Brussels-based Corporate Europe Observatory announced that it would be suing the executive body, the European Commission, for withholding documents relating to the talks, accusing it of ‘discriminating' in favour of corporate lobby groups and breaking EU transparency rules.

The group argues that the Commission has been highly selective in disseminating information, using an example a list of 17 official documents relating to the India talks, which it claims were sent to bodies such as BusinessEurope and the Confederation of the European Food and Drink Industries.

Their organisation has been denied access to such documents, and in some cases documents received had sections blackened out, the group claims.

“We could see from the list of documents received and even from those that we received part of the text of, that there are a lot of documents that industry bodies were allowed to see that we weren't,” said Mr Olivier Hoedman, research coordination at the Corporate Europe Observatory.

The Commission's response: that these sections were protected was “illogical” as they had been shared with the business bodies, he added.

The group is concerned that the negotiations don't “sufficiently safeguard the poorest and weakest in India society,” he added. “We are critical of the negotiating objectives of the European Commission.”

The case, brought to the EU General Court, highlighted something the advocacy group had experienced in EU negotiations over the years, said Mr Hoedman.

“It has been particularly acute in this case, and as negotiations are at a crucial stage the public interest in this is clear.” The Commission has two months to issue a written response, which will be followed by an oral evidence session.

The EU Trade Commission spokesman, Mr John Clancy, said the Commission had not yet received specifics of the case, but would be examining the matter closely once they had more details.

While the Commission was committed to working openly and transparently, “it is clear that all negotiations require a degree of confidentiality to ensure such a process can move forward,” said Mr Clancy.

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Published on February 16, 2011
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