Is it "transparency" when a confidential briefing is given behind closed doors? In a post-Lisbon era, can the Commission continue to bully the Parliament in this way?
The European Parliament was briefed on ACTA (formally known as the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement) yesterday. That is the official position anyway. But it wasn't a briefing that would generally be recognised as being part of a democratic process.
The briefing was given by the European Commission's ACTA negotiators, including the infamous Luc Devigne from DG Trade. It was given to the Parliament's INTA (Trade) Committee. However, if MEPs wanted to hear what the Commission had to say, they had to go behind closed doors to hear it. And they had to first agree that they would maintain confidentiality and not release the information publicly. It is understood that the
ACTA information was given verbally, and no documentation was handed out.
It also appears to be the case that MEPs can get the ACTA text if they are willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
At least one MEP - Christian Engstrom of the Green group /Pirate Party - walked out, objecting to the term of confidentiality attached to the briefing.
Mr Engström commented on his blog : "In a democracy, new laws should be made by the elected representatives after an open public debate. They should not be negotiated behind closed doors by unelected officials at the Commission, in an attempt to keep the citizens out of the process until it is too late."
This is why the call by the Greens/EFA group for the European Commission to suspend negotiations pending a mutual agreement on the meaning of transparency, is so important. (See my previous article: EU gets wires crossed over ACTA transparency ). 'Transparency' does not necessarily mean full public disclosure, and the term is being manipulated by the Commisison in order to score political points over the Parliament.
The question has to be asked as to why it considered acceptable for the Commission to treat the Parliament in this way, which shows a blatant contempt for democracy. Under the Lisbon Treaty Article 218 (10) the Commission is duty-bound to keep the European Parliament informed at all stages of a process such as ACTA. Or is it? Apparently, according to sources close to the European Parliament, that too is subject to agreement.
**I understand that there has been a second briefing to the Parliament, this time to the LIBE committee, by the Trade Commissioner Karel de Grucht. It appears that Commissioner de Grucht made some interesting comments. I am waiting for further information. **
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) ACTA Transparency: EU Commission draws the curtains, http://www.iptegrity.com 13 July 2010 .