As the eighth round of negotiations just ended in Brussels, it seems that the question of transparency is coming back to haunt trade negotiators. Despite an intense and astute communication effort over the past few months, Cecilia Malmström’s attempt to bring an end to the transparency debate around TTIP is losing momentum. And quickly.
Surely, the European Commission’s release in early January of several documents linked to the ongoing discussions including the long-leaked negotiation mandate has somewhat eased public discontent over TTIP’s alleged secrecy. But, as pointed in a letter to the Financial Times shortly after the release, “the publication was in response to a report from the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly . . . a report that called for a lot more transparency than has been provided.“ Civil society was quick to realize that the fifteen documents made public by Commissioner Malmström fall short of the a fresh start she promised last December.
Among others, activists point to the fact that crucial information on consolidated negotiation texts, lobbying minutes, and the list of still-classified documents is still missing in action. Without this data, they argue, the Commission cannot seriously hope to get rid of the growing public anxiety around TTIP. With Washington pushing for some restraint, it seems that, in retrospect, Commissioner Malmström’s move satisfied no one.
So where do we really stand on transparency? What is left to do? And how far should we go? To provide some answers, we sat down with some experts from both sides of the debate.