Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Commission sued over privileged access

  • Dansk
  • Nederlands
  • English
  • Suomi
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Ελληνικά
  • Italiano
  • Bokmål
  • Polski
  • Portuguese
  • Română
  • Slovenščina
  • Español
  • Svenska

Brussels, 15 February 2011 - Lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory is suing the European Commission in the EU’s General Court for withholding documents related to the EU’s free trade talks with India. The Commission is accused of discriminating in favour of corporate lobby groups and of violating the EU's transparency rules [1].

The case concerns 17 documents, including meeting reports, emails and a letter, which the Commission sent to industry lobby groups including BusinessEurope but refused to release in full to Corporate Europe Observatory. The Commission claims that the censored information is sensitive as it concerns the EU’s priorities and strategies in the ongoing trade negotiations with India. The Commission argues that disclosing this information would undermine the EU’s international relations.

Corporate Europe Observatory trade campaigner Pia Eberhardt said:

“If the Commission has already shared information with the business world at large, the same information cannot suddenly become confidential when a public interest group asks for it. This is a case of manifest discrimination and violates the EU’s access to information rules.”

Among the censored documents is a letter to BusinessEurope from former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in March 2008, from which comments on the EU and Indian negotiating positions have been deleted [2]. In a handwritten note at the bottom, Mandelson had expressly invited BusinessEurope to discuss the letter with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). As both BusinessEurope and the CII have thousands of members, the letter was effectively put on general release the moment it was sent out.

The lawsuit is a last resort for Corporate Europe Observatory after the Commission repeatedly refused to release the information about ongoing trade negotiations, following access to document requests.

Pia Eberhardt added:

“The Commission must end its flawed practice of granting big business privileged access to EU trade policy-making, at the expense of wider public interest. Such discrimination leads to a trade policy which caters for big business needs, but which has devastating effects for people’s rights and the environment.”


In December, more than 200 civil society organisations from the EU and India called for an immediate halt to the EU-India free trade talks, which they fear will fuel poverty, inequality and environmental destruction [3]. Negotiations are set to conclude by mid-2011.


Corporate Europe Observatory’s application will now be reviewed by the General Court and sent to the European Commission. The Commission has two months and ten days to reply, but can seek an extension. Once the written procedure is declared closed, the General Court will set a date for an oral hearing in Luxembourg.


Contact:
Pia Eberhardt, pia[at]corporateeurope.org


Notes:

[1] In the General Court of the European Union. Application for Annulment of Stichting Corporate Europe Observatory against the European Commission, 15 February 2011. A background article on the case can be downloaded below and at:
http://www.corporateeurope.org/global-europe/content/2011/02/commission-...

[2] The partially released letter from Peter Mandelson to BusinessEurope’s Director General, Philippe de Buck, dated 18 March 2008, can be downloaded below.

[3] Last chance to prevent onslaught on people's rights and livelihoods! Indian and European civil society groups call for an immediate halt to the India-EU trade negotiations, 8 December 2010, http://www.corporateeurope.org/global-europe/content/2010/10/call-halt-e...

Related issues: 
 

The EU's Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada could unleash a wave of corporate lawsuits against Canada, the EU and its member states – including through the Canadian subsidiaries of US multinational corporations. This is the result of an in-depth analysis of CETA’s investor rights by Corporate Europe Observatory and 14 other environmental NGOs, citizens’ groups and workers unions from both sides of the Atlantic published today.
Comment

(mis)Communicating TTIP

An internal document shows the Commission and Council have initiated a coordinated “information campaign” on TTIP. But one thing is missing.
CEO just responded to the European Ombudsman’s public consultation on transparency in the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), outlining suggestions for ending the secrecy in the EU-US trade talks.
Answer the call from the D19-20 Alliance in Belgium to take to the streets against TTIP and austerity on Friday 19th December 2014, as the second day of the European Council Summit unfolds
Corporate Europe Observatory needs to raise €3000 to challenge dirty energy corporations who are trying to hijack the UN climate negotiations this December in Lima (COP 20), building a strong voice to carry through 2015 when governments meet again for the crucial talks in Paris.
An analysis of the revised independence policy of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). More reworded than revised, actually.
The EU's Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada could unleash a wave of corporate lawsuits against Canada, the EU and its member states – including through the Canadian subsidiaries of US multinational corporations. This is the result of an in-depth analysis of CETA’s investor rights by Corporate Europe Observatory and 14 other environmental NGOs, citizens’ groups and workers unions from both sides of the Atlantic published today.
The position of Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission has been discontinued, and the Juncker Commission says it is now reflecting on how to organise independent scientific advice. This is a crucial issue and, together with many other NGOs, we sent a list of principles to the Commission on how to, in our opinion, try to best do this.

Corporate Europe Forum