TTIP transparency means proactive communication with citizens and stakeholders

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Diego Pinto

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) offers the prospect of economic growth and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic, but should not be agreed to without transparent and proactive engagement of all stakeholders, writes Diogo Pinto.

Diogo Pinto is Secretary General of the European Movement International

Stakeholders’ expectations regarding transparency are higher than in any previous trade negotiations, as indicated by civic and media interest. On 6 January 2015, the EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, presented the results of her inquiry concerning transparency and citizens’ participation in the TTIP negotiations. Subsequently, pursuing its commitment to “more transparency”, on 13 January the European Commission presented the results of the public consultation on the incorporation of an Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) in TTIP. With the 8th round of negotiations which kicked off in Brussels this week, the European Movement International held a briefing with the EU Ombudsman, touching upon the crucial transparency issues.

A proactive debate

The new College of Commissioners has indeed stepped up its efforts to increase TTIP transparency, but developments undertaken still remain reactive. In order to be (perceived as) a reliable negotiator, representing the interests of all actors concerned, the European Commission needs to proactively increase the transparency of the negotiations, by letting go of its informal mantra that trade negotiations need to be accompanied by a certain degree of confidentiality. In practice, this could mean taking steps to involve the TTIP Advisory Group to a much larger extent, finding innovative ways to interact with civil society and modernising the practices implemented so far. An interactive reading room available on the Commission’s website could be a good first step.

One of the latest developments, greater access for the European Parliament to the negotiating documents, means that MEPs are now in a much better position to pursue the Parliaments’ involvement in the TTIP negotiations and fulfill their watchdog’s role. Positive actions in communicating with the European electorate in an informed, interactive way should follow as a supporting measure.

In addition to the concerns of European citizens, TTIP will have a profound impact on the economies of countries outside of the European Union, especially the European candidate and potential candidate states as well as those of the EFTA countries. However, as these countries are absent from the negotiation table, the responsibility lies with the negotiation team to represent their concerns.

Transparent interests

By holding a series of pan-European debates on civil society and the TTIP, contributing to the EU Ombudsman consultation and spreading the results through its network, the European Movement International has endeavoured to promote an informed and honest discussion on TTIP and bring the concerns of civil society actors to the negotiators’ table. The upcoming EMI briefing with the European Ombudsman is yet another effort undertaken on the part of civil society towards this goal, but it constitutes merely a drop in the ocean of what is needed.  We are still awaiting active, decisive answers and positive steps from the TTIP Commission team.