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European Union

 
17/01
2013

Lobbyists know how to keep a secret

Nothing to be exited about, says the EU Commission

The EU Commission has now explained why documents given to business lobbyist were denied to non-governmental organisation Corporate Europe Observatory: The business groups know how to keep a secret.

Fully justified, and all by the book.
This was the explanation given by the lawyer representing the Commission when EU’s General Court in Luxembourg on January 11 heard the arguments in the case about selective transparency on trade documents.
The case has been brought to court by lobbyist watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), claiming that the Commission discriminates between different actors.
Documents on EU-India trade talks were distributed to perhaps 100 000 potential readers in the European and the Indian business community but only released to CEO in a redacted form.
Nothing wrong with that, according to the Commission’s testimony in the courtroom.
The business lobbyists know how to treat the documents confidentially, the argument went.

A language lesson
During the oral hearing the Commissions lawyer was asked how it could be that the former trade commissioner Peter Mandelson had added a handwritten note to Philippe de Buck, then director of Business Europe, with the following content:
”You might make some comments to your counterpart in the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) in view of the above.”
Was this not a call to distribute the content?
The Commission’s lawyer answered, as noted in a blogpost by Pia Eberhardt of CEO:
”Well if you write this to a Greek, they will put the letter online.” But Mandelson being an Englishman had used the word ”might”, not ”may” or ”should”, which allegedly would have made a completely different story.

If transmitted
The CEO could also point to the fact that one of the disputed documents actually hade been made public on the net by the Czech government, one of the justified recipients.
”Vademecum” an internal Commissions rule on access to documents further states that if information contained in a document has already been transmitted to a large number of people (….) a refusal to disclose it would not be justified.
When judge Martins Riberio asked the Commission’s lawyer to comment on when this internal rule applies, no clear answer was given, Pia Eberhardt reports.

Free trade agreement
The EU-India trade talks have started in 2007, with the aim of concluding a Free trade agreement by June 2013. No positions have yet been disclosed to the public.
Corporate Europe Obeservatory and other concerned NGOs fear this agreement would fuel poverty, inequality and environmental destruction.
A ruling on the case about discriminatory release is expected for spring or summer, Pia Eberhardt reports.
 

Staffan Dahllöf

 
 
 

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