rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Corporate lobbying bias in European Commission does not violate the law: ruling

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Pia Eberhardt (far left) discusses corporate lobbying with a group in front of t

Please support our coverage of democratic movements and become a supporting member of rabble.ca.

A European court has upheld the European Commission practice of giving preferential access to trade documents to business lobbyists while keeping it out of the hands of everyone else. Corporate Europe Observatory, which launched a lawsuit against the practice in 2011, warned today that the decision will only deepen the secrecy around EU trade negotiations at the expense of the wider public interest.

"There is a big risk that the Commission will see the court ruling as a green light to continue to develop its trade policy behind closed doors, together with, and for, a tiny elite of corporate lobby groups. The result is a trade policy that caters for big business needs, but works against the interests of the bulk of the population in the EU and other parts of the world," said Pia Eberhardt of CEO.

In February 2011, CEO sued the European Commission for withholding information on the EU-India free trade negotiations that it was making readily available to corporate lobby groups. The case involved 17 documents (meeting reports, emails and letter) that DG Trade, the Commission's department responsible for the India FTA, shared with BusinessEurope and the Confederation of the European Food and Drink Industry (CIAA).

"Citizens and Parliamentarians are increasingly worried about the risks that the EU's corporate trade agenda poses to food safety, digital rights and environmental protection," added Eberhardt, referring to looming EU-US negotiations toward a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP). "Trade negotiations should be conducted in an open and democratically-accountable way, and it is high time that the Commission stops handing over the negotiating agenda to multinational companies. It is disappointing that the court ruling seems to point in exactly the opposite direction."

The corporate bias is unacceptable and unfortunately commonplace in otherwise democratic countries like the EU and Canada. Les Whittington wrote in the Toronto Star recently that, "Canadians have been kept in the dark about what's at stake for them in two major free-trade talks the Harper government is conducting with the European Union (EU) and an Asia-Pacific trading bloc."

Whittington explains that even though both agreements "could bring about wholesale change in Canada, touching everything from job creation to prescription drug costs to consumer prices and the ability of municipalities to favour local companies on large urban infrastructure projects," only business groups, labour and other interest groups that have signed non-disclosure agreements have access to the closed-door negotiations.

"It's really important that there be transparency and openness in these negotiations because they are delving into areas of policy-making that are very deep," said Teresa Healy, senior researcher at the Canadian Labour Congress, in the Toronto Star article. "They are burrowing down into provincial, territorial and subnational levels of government like school boards and universities and hospitals."

NDP trade critic Don Davies told Whittington the lack of information for parliamentarians interferes with their duty to hold governments accountable on trade, and that "It's been a feature of the Conservatives to manipulate information and to effectively bar the public from any kind of meaningful information on trade policy."

A new film by Friedrich Moser and Matthieu Lietart called The Brussels Business exposes the Commission's collusion with big business, in particular around trade negotiations, calling it the "grey zone underneath European democracy." The documentary, which was released earlier this year in Europe and is now available for download on iTunes, bills itself as "an expedition into the world of the 15,000 lobbyists in the EU-capital, of the PR-conglomerates, think tanks and their all embracing networks of power and their close ties to the political elites."

Corporate Europe Observatory says it will now carefully analyse the ruling and consider next steps. "A potential appeal would need to be filed within two months and ten days," they say.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.