Ombudsman joins call to open up EU-US trade talks

31 July 2014

The extreme lack of transparency surrounding the EU-US trade talks is coming under increasing pressure today, as the European Ombudsman calls for documents related to the talks to be published, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.

The European Ombudsman, Mrs O'Reilly, opened two investigations today targeting the European Commission and Council, calling for greater transparency around the on-going Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, and for EU negotiating directives and lists of Commission meetings with stakeholders to be published.

Paul de Clerck, economic justice programme coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "We welcome the European Ombudsman initiative. The EU-US trade deal is the largest free-trade agreement ever negotiated, and it will impact on almost every aspect of citizens' lives on both sides of the Atlantic. People have the right to know what is being negotiated on their behalf and who is driving the talks."

Civil society calls for transparency have largely remained unanswered – including a letter sent by Friends of the Earth Europe to EU Commissioner De Gucht on behalf of 257 civil society organisations in May 2014. Access to documents, requested by Friends of the Earth Europe, were mostly rejected, and if they were provided took the European Commission several months to respond instead of the prescribed 15 working days.

Secrecy around the talks has been criticised following revelations of overwhelming industry domination in the negotiations, and evidence that proposals that could significantly damage citizens' and environmental protection are under discussion.

Paul de Clerck continued: "We are glad the Ombudsman is questioning the lack of transparency. The Commission and Council have refused to provide key documents to civil society and are extremely slow in responding to access to document requests. At the same time the Commission is continuously sitting around the table with business lobby groups to discuss what to bring into the negotiations. We believe the public interest is at risk here."

Friends of the Earth Europe will continue to call for the publication of the negotiating mandate, all documents submitted by the European Union during the negotiations, and the negotiating texts themselves. Citizens have the right to know what is being put on the table, and how this is being negotiated.