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TTIP transparency clouded by smoke and mirrors

Posted by on December 4, 2014.

Cecilia Malmström

Cecilia Malmström

The new European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, spoke to the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee. Her speech was published yesterday. Needless to say, she focused on the Trans-satantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Key to this speech was a promise of transparency (or at least a politician’s definition of transparency). In future, all 751 MEPs who will have to vote on the TTIP will have been able to see the evolution of the discussion on the TTIP.

But that’s as far as it goes. We the people, who pay both her and their salaries (and expenses) will still be largely excluded from this transparency:

There will of course be documents that we will not fully share with the public. But I hope you can understand that negotiations only work when there is a space for trust and calm discussion between the people involved.
The Trade Commissioner and Parliament: A Vital Relationship

No, I do neither understand nor accept that. If somebody does something in my name, then I have a right to know and participate in what is being done in my name. And if that makes the discussions more difficult, good — because it also makes it more difficult for the politicians to sell my liberty down the river.

Politics is no longer a vocation, it is a career. And we’ve all done things we know to be against our conscience in order to further our careers. There is no democratic check on politicians who can operate in secret.

Apart from this politician’s view of transparency, there is one notable absence from her speech. Nowhere does she even mention the one area that has become the focus of public concern over TTIP: copyright and the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS). This will allow companies to sue foreign governments in extra-judicial quasi courts if national laws are deemed to affect corporate profits. You can bet your bottom euro that it will largely be US companies suing European nations who try to protect citizen’s privacy rights.

If I am wrong in this, excellent. But let Cecilia Malmström prove me wrong by being fully transparent with the people and not just the MEPs. All negotiations should be fully public.


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