The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (hereinafter TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment agreement, which is currently being negotiated — behind closed doors — between the European Union and the US.
In particular, all TTIP negotiations are swathed in secrecy, since the Commission is imposing the most stringent restrictions on the more important documents.
In response to great pressure from MEPs, the Commission has stated that Member States and selected MEPs — those who handle the relevant issues — may have some access to the EU negotiating documents, but only in designated reading (reading rooms), and the photocopying or photographing of documents will not be permitted.
The Court of Justice has already issued two important decisions — on 26 June 2014 and 3 July 2014 — essentially criticising the lack of transparency and information in the negotiations.
Under Article 218 of the EU Treaty (Treaty of Lisbon) and on the basis of the precautionary principle, will the Commission say:
(a) Is the procedure being adopted in this instance in accordance with Article 218 TEU?
(b) Is this essentially a case of the unauthorised modification of a core area of European law?
(c) Does the minimum amount of time set aside for access to and scrutiny of the relevant documents undermine the role of the European Parliament and the Commission?
Answer given by Ms Malmström on behalf of the Commission
The negotiations on the EU-US Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) are the most transparent ever conducted by the EU. The Commission's website(1) is a comprehensive source of information about TTIP. The Commission has recently taken extensive steps(2) to ensure greater transparency in the TTIP negotiations both for Members of the European Parliament and for European citizens in general. As part of this initiative on 7 January 2015 the Commission made public textual proposals that the EU has tabled in the TTIP negotiations.
As regards access to the negotiating documents for Members of the European Parliament, the procedure is in accordance not only with Article 218 but as well with Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Commission refers the Honourable Member to the responses to previous questions on this topic, including but not limited to P-006907/2014, P-010287/2014, E-008701/2014 and E-008677/2014(3).
With respect to recent judgments of the Court, the Commission would like to make clear that in Case C-350/12 P of 3 July 2014 the Court did not criticise the lack of transparency but rather suggested that transparency ‘could not be ruled out in international affairs’(4), especially where the negotiations ‘may have an impact on an area of the European Union’s legislative activity’(5). Nevertheless it is important to underline that both, the General Court and the Court (in that same judgment) have agreed ‘that public participation in the procedure relating to the negotiation and the conclusion of an international agreement is necessarily restricted, in view of the legitimate interest in not revealing strategic elements of the negotiations’(6).
(4) Judgment of the Court of 3.7.2014 in Case C-350/12 P, Council of the European Union v Sophie in 't Veld, paragraph 76.
(5) Ibid, paragraph 76.
(6) Ibid, paragraph 102.