Thursday

19th Jul 2018

Berlin: 35 square metres of TTIP transparency

  • The room opens Monday at 10am, with the first MP to schedule an appointment being Klaus Ernst from leftist party Die Linke (Photo: Justus von Daniels)

“It is not a milestone for transparency. It’s just a reading room,” said German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel at the much-awaited opening of a special reading room last Thursday (28 January) in Berlin.

The room that has been set up in the ministry of economy, is the first of its kind offering members of national parliaments the opportunity to read the texts on the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Over the past year transparency has been a key issue in the German debate on TTIP. MPs regardless of their political affiliation demanded bigger insight into the consolidated texts of the planned agreement.

Consolidated TTIP texts have been available so far only in the European Commission in Brussels for a limited number of EU officials involved in the negotiations.

In Germany, the country thought to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the trade deal, the US embassy in Berlin offered 140 accredited government officials a chance to read the secret documents. Only one German MP was granted entrance.

“Finally, parliamentarians get their right to read,” Gabriel said.

But the rules for reading the documents are quite strict. MPs have to schedule an appointment as the room opens only twice a day for two hours. Before entering the room, they have to leave their mobile phones and any electronic device in a secure locker.

They can read the documents only on a computer screen which is not connected to the Internet. They may take notes but are not allowed to copy any quotes from the consolidated texts.

The room, reminiscent of an internet cafe, hosts up to eight MPs at a time guarded throughout their visit by a security officer.

There is also an English-German dictionary provided for MPs with difficulties understanding the complex trade texts in English.

On her last visit to Berlin, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem was asked by German MPs to provide translated versions of the texts, too. Some MPs expressed that they felt disadvantaged by not getting the texts in German.

Malmstroem replied that the commission would provide a translation of the final draft of the agreement, but no consolidated texts will be translated.

Gabriel announced that the ministry would try to assist with translators if a member of parliament wished.

It was the US and the EU which agreed to these rules mainly to control the amount of information becoming public on the ongoing negotiations.

MPs may finally find out what the different positions are in the chapters negotiated on, but they are not allowed to speak publicly about the content or quote any information in the Bundestag debates.

Open on trial basis

A restraint document from the commission shows the consequences of disclosing information.

The document, obtained by the German non-profit news organisation correctiv.org, lays out the detailed agreement between the US and the EU about access to the consolidated texts.

The US indicates that the availability of the TTIP texts will be on “a trial basis, pending demonstration of the integrity and reliability of the approach”.

In the case of unauthorised disclosure of information, the US “may withdraw its consent to the placement of TTIP consolidated texts in any or all of the member states reading rooms”.

This means if an MP leaks or quotes any sensitive information, the parliament may be denied access to the documents.

Gabriel said to the press that it was the joint decision of the EU and the US to set the rules. He would have preferred to have had the reading room in the Bundestag. “I would also prefer to have more transparency,” he said.

The room opens Monday (1 February) at 10am local time.

The first MP scheduled for an appointment is Klaus Ernst from the leftist party Die Linke.

This article is published in a cooperation with the Berlin-based non-profit investigative news organisationcorrectiv.org.

Interview

'Hungary is test case for state capture'

Friends of prime minister Viktor Orban have "grasped power and occupied all state institutions," says the country's first EU commissioner - but he hopes new 'conditionality' clauses in the next EU budget could help reduce misuse of public money.

Feature

Babis - 'pro-EU' leader of sceptic Czech Republic

For Andrej Babis, a businessman turned politician, EU membership is a matter of conviction as much as of economic opportunities, in a country still looking for a purpose.

Analysis

Greece facing post-bailout challenges

Creditors are expected to agree Thursday on a final loan and debt relief measures for Greece. After eight years on an international lifeline, the country will remain under close surveillance - but will have to find a new economic model.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson slams 'dithering' May in resignation speech
  2. EU border guards to be sent to Macedonia
  3. Juncker investment plan exceeds target
  4. EU will reply 'tit for tat' to US trade measures
  5. EU Commission registers Brexit citizenship petition
  6. EU launches pre-accession probe for Albania and Macedonia
  7. Google faces multibillion euro EU fine for Android
  8. EU wants more guarantees from VW on Dieselgate fix

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us