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woensdag 20 maart 2013

Sophie in 't Veld (MEP) determined to step up efforts for more transparency in EU

"Today's ruling unfortunately upholds the culture of discretion and confidentiality of diplomats that was common in the fifties", Dutch MEP Sophie In 't Veld (ALDE/D66) says in a reaction to the judgment of the European General Court in her case against the European Commission for the refusal to disclose documents on the negotiations on the anti-piracy treaty ACTA. The Court ruled, in favour of In 't Veld, that the Commission had classified too many documents confidential. However, the Court also supported the Commission by stating that a general confidentiality agreement with negotiating partners is allowed. In 't Veld: "This way diplomatic negotiations are routinely classified confidential while citizens are left in the dark."

Democratic participation

Onno Brouwer, who represented Sophie in 't Veld before the General Court: "The crucial question is whether citizens may know about the EU's positions and proposals during the negotiation of international treaties such as ACTA, which are binding for those citizens. With this ruling, the Court gives an explanation of the exception provided in the transparency-regulation for the protection of international relations and puts diplomacy above democracy. The question is whether this is in line with the Lisbon Treaty."

In 't Veld: "We often stress the need for strong public support for a political union. To this end the EU still has to make a major efforts. Flaws in the design of the EU, particularly the lack of transparency and democratic legitimacy, should be repaired. Trust of citizens hinges on openness and accountability of the politicians who represent them."

Change of culture

The Commission puts European transparency legislation upon a simple request by the negations partners. This underlines how European institutions have difficulty with the growing demand for more transparency from citizens. In 't Veld: "The public caused by ACTA is a perfect illustration of this."

Political union

The current EU Transparency Regulation is no longer sufficient. The review of the Transparency Regulation is in a deadlock as Commission and the Member States on the one hand want to restrict access to documents, whereas the European Parliament on the other hand demands more transparency. The procedures for classifying documents are not subject to any meaningful scrutiny, and decisions can only be challenged by cumbersome procedures, at a cost prohibitive to most citizens. In 't Veld: "For the 2014 European elections, transparency will be one of our key issues. Dutch liberal party D66 does not only talk about more democracy in Europe, we actually put it into practice. Other political parties should make clear if they join forces with us".

In 2012 In 't Veld won a case against the Counccil on disclousure of an document relating to the SWIFT treaty. The European Parliament decided to intervene on the side of In 't Veld in the appeal case brought against her by the Council. Two more substantial requests for documents (on FATCA and on the implementation report of the EU-US TFTP agreement) by Mrs In t Veld have been refused by the Commission and by Europol respectively. Mrs In t Veld is considering further steps.

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