European Parliament waives the right to be informed

December 5, 2013
By Ante

In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, European Parliament International Trade committee Chairman Vital Moreira said, regarding the trade negotiations with the United States (TTIP / TAFTA), that he is not now pressing the European Commission to provide parliament members with access to U.S. negotiating proposals, but that could change if the U.S. authorizes the commission to share these proposals with member states.

According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union article 218 (10), the European Parliament shall be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure. Apparently, the US demands that the EU violates its founding treaties. And the commission and parliament gave in. That’s not a good signal, giving in from the start. What else will we trade away?

The US is in a stronger position, the EU could use public disclosure to strengthen its negotiation position. There is so much at stake in these negotiations, details are crucial. It is irresponsible that the parliament waives its constitutional rights and gives in to secrecy demands.

In my opinion, the parliament has to correct Mr. Moreira.

Mr. Moreira also said the inclusion of investor – state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) sets a precedent in favor of its inclusion in a TTIP agreement.

“CETA is a precedent in favor of ISDS, and maybe the conditionalities there, guarantees that surround the adoption of ISDS in the CETA, could be also imported into TTIP,” he said, according to Inside US Trade.

Really? Mr. Moreira talks as if the controversial ISDS mechanism in CETA is already accepted and adopted by the EU. The negotiations are just finished, the text is still secret for (most) members of parliaments and for the public. The ratification process still has to start.

See what happens here? Secret negotiations, just some members of the European Parliament (including Mr. Moreira) had (some) access. And now it is a done deal, as far as Moreira is concerned.

This is not parliamentary oversight. The chairman of the trade committee, the man who has to ascertain openness, citizen participation and democratic scrutiny, ascertain legitimacy, quality and balance, ascertain that no tunnel vision harms the outcome, is fine with secrecy and tries to create faits accomplis (accomplished, presumably irreversible deeds).

A chairman has to try to safeguard best procedures. In my opinion, Mr. Moreira fails here.

Mr. Moreira is a social-democrat, he wants to create jobs. I fully agree with this intention. He may also genuinely believe that openness reduces the chances of an agreement being adopted. He may be right, as there will always be trade offs.

But the crucial point is that trade agreements may have perverse effects contrary to what was originally intended. Including on jobs.

Scrutiny is essential. Whatever good intentions, by harming scrutiny, Vital Moreira harms the union.

Regarding ISDS, see the next post (upcoming).

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