Last week, we published a blog post on the impact of the European Court of Justice ruling on MEP Sophie in’t Veld’s case against the Council.

The Court’s decisions clearly stated that access should be ensured to documents relating to international agreements, unless it can be demonstrated that disclosure would undermine the negotiations.

shutterstock_132708305Curious as to what this development means for the transparency of the TTIP negotiations, we followed up with European Commission officials, only to be struck by their response.

Though keeping the negotiating texts secret, EU officials claim they already respect the conditions specified by the Court, as deeming them public would mean defaulting on US negotiators’ demands to keep documents out of public’s reach. According to the Commission officials, failing to respect this US request would lead to a rupture in trust between the EU and US, which would inevitably undermine the conduct of negotiations.

Now, this response raises a number of quite fundamental questions:

  • Why is the EU so steadfast in acceding to the US? Why should the EU not set its own negotiating conditions? Why should the EU not require that, in line with due processes, some texts should be shared with the public at certain stages? More fundamentally, should the EU trust a trade partner that asks for negotiations of such wide scope and unprecedented implications for the EU market to be kept secret?
  • There are increasing indications, relayed by policy makers, that public trust in TTIP is very low. The European Commission needs to build and enhance trust in the TTIP negotiations, or else risk facing a veto by the European Parliament, the Council or many national parliaments. The Commission would be well advised to give priority to restoring faith amongst Europeans that the public interest is being served by the trade deal. The way in which this could be achieved is by increasing transparency of the negotiations even if that means taking a firmer tone with the pact partners.
  • Whether you approve or not, the reality is that some negotiating documents will be leaked. This leads to a culture of mistrust and growing suspicion questions such as ‘’is this the correct version of the document?’’, ‘’who has already seen it?’’ etc. Eventually, stakeholders end up talking about an invalid text, which is even more disruptive. Why not from the beginning officially share the original version of texts with all interested parties, as it is highly likely they will be leaked to their hands anyway? Increasing transparency in the TTIP negotiations will foster trust and reduce suspicion of the transatlantic deal.

Until now, the European Commission seems reluctant to engage in this kind of straightforward approach, out of fear of displeasing the US. We strongly believe the Commission is backing the wrong horse in striving to win the trust of its US counterpart while it loses that of European citizens. It’s clear that the Commission can only win by opening up about the TTIP negotiations, as it will regain the trust and support of European citizens, in whose interests they are mandated to act anyway.

Posted by Monique Goyens


  1. so why do you then not file for access? If denied in an official reply (instead of secret behind the doors meeting with EU COM staff), you can file at the EU court of justice and have the arguements weighted. Should be a clear case then.

  2. This may be unpopular, but I disagree with your assessment on several levels. 1. making the texts public would not at all calm down the situation. On the contrary. Every NGO out there would try to find its little piece of cheese to nag about and nibble on. 2. I do believe it is ok to negotiate large parts of the agreement undisturbed by propaganda, hype and distortion of facts – all tools of several NGOs, and political players who want to benefit from destroying TTIP. 3. I as a voter gave a mandate to the parliament to check the final agreement (I do agree MEPs involved should have access) and to the government of my member state to decide on it. I trust them a lot more than some NGOs who are funded by dubious sources and may be just installed by other entities to sabotage an agreement that could get young Europeans emloyed again… But no one seems to care about that

    1. Monique Goyens July 30, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing your view. At least we agree on one point: “MEPs involved should have access”. On employment and growth perspective, check this assessment from our Austrian member:

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