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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. 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, 13 July 2010 .


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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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