Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, reacted to today’s ruling from the European Court of Justice validating past Commission disclosures of documentation on ongoing trade talks to BusinessEurope, a major big business lobby group, while at the same time denying civil society groups access to the same information.
Corporate Europe Observatory, the EU business lobby watchdog, had taken the European Commission to court four years ago for refusing to disclose documentation previously shared with BusinessEurope, by having them classified as sensitive and confidential.
Ms. Childers sees this as evidence that the rules governing access and freedom of information in Europe are no longer fit for purpose and are seriously out of balance.
Speaking after the appeal ruling was delivered today, Ms. Childers, who is drafting an opinion on transparency and integrity in the EU institutions for the European Parliament Committee on the Environment and Public Health, said:
“This court decision should force us, as EU lawmakers, to seriously review the way transparency and freedom of information is governed in Europe.
“Getting concessions from the Commission’s old school administrative culture on transparency over the years has been like pulling teeth, and yet they willingly open their arms and briefcases to BusinessEurope.
“Often, they do not even need to come knocking on their door, as the Commission will come running to them for trade advice. This would perhaps be fine if they showed the same courtesy to civil society groups and other social partners, such as workers’ representatives.
“Instead, they seem to live by the mantra that what is good for big business is good for Europe.
“The Commission has received no mandate from anyone to be conflating the interests of the EU with those of big business, treating civil society as second class partners at best, or as irresponsible children at worse, as we saw from the post-facto classification of documents when they were asked for them after their selective disclosure.”
“This ruling sends a bad signal to what I see as a culture of resistance to transparency and privileged access to powerful, private interest lobbies, at a time when the EU-US trade talks are so fraught with suspicion of excessive big business influence.
“It shows that the provisions governing access to documents must be reviewed, tightened and made equitable.”