- EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht with Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Corporate Europe Observatory is demanding that the Commission share information regarding key negotiations and documents relating to the FTA.
The Hindu Business Line | 9 Jan 2013
European Commission taken to court over India-EU trade pact
Campaign group alleges violation of EU transparency rules
The European Commission is set to appear before an EU Court on Friday, over access to information regarding negotiations on the EU-India Free Trade Agreement.
An oral hearing at the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg – part of the Court of Justice of the European Union – will take place, following a long-running campaign by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a group championing greater transparency in the region.
CEO is demanding that the Commission share information regarding key negotiations and documents relating to the FTA, arguing that the commission had shared information in full with corporate lobby groups, but not with other bodies, including small businesses, trade unions.
It is accusing the Commission of “discriminating in favour of corporate lobby groups” and “violating” the EU’s transparency rules.
“We feel that the result of the very close working relationships with big business lobby groups and their privileged access to information is reflected in the final negotiation position of the Commission, reflecting the market access interests of companies exporting from the EU but not necessarily other stakeholders, such as public health or environmental groups,” says Pia Eberhardt, campaigner at CEO.
The campaign group is basing its case on 17 Commission documents, including a letter sent by former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to industry lobby groups back in 2008 – sections of which were deleted in a version that was given to Corporate Europe Observatory in response to their request.
“Such an approach is clearly a case of manifest discrimination between big business and a public interest group – an argument that the lawsuit makes for all the documents concerned,” the group says.
CEO’s campaign began in 2009, during the course of its research for a paper published the following year, which warned that the deal would “fuel poverty, inequality and environmental destruction.”
’The European Commission is committed to transparency and openness, including in trade negotiations. Negotiations on trade agreements are based on consultations with all parts of European civil society, and no particular group is favoured. However, just like in all walks of life, transparency sometimes has to be balanced with the broader interest, including not undermining the EU’s negotiation position. We also have to protect the position taken by our negotiating partners, in this case India. These exceptions in transparency are regulated by European law,” said John Clancy, EU Trade Spokesman.