Dutch MPs from across the political spectrum are demanding answers on the European Commission’s decision to stop sending them details of the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The aim of the proposed free trade deal between the EU and US is to cut tariffs, standardise regulations and simplify investment, but it is facing strong resistance from consumers and others who are worried about the impact on Dutch suppliers and food safety standards.
Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced last week that reports on the next round of negotiations would no longer be sent to member states – Germany in particular – but placed in a secure reading room in Brussels. That decision, taken after a string of leaks, has already led Germany to make a formal protest.
Dutch MPs are also furious that they will be unable to take notes in the reading room or take notebooks and phones in with them, and consumer group Foodwatch has described the decision as a ‘direct attack on democracy’.
‘The TTIP is being placed increasingly under wraps,’ Socialist MP Jasper van Dijk is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant. ‘I don’t want to go to a sort of dark room in Brussels to read the documents. Malmström’s action shows that all talk of openness is hot air.’
The ruling VVD also says the documents should be available in The Hague. ‘It is nonsense and wrong that national parliamentarians should have to travel to a little room in Brussels to read secret documents,’ said MEP Hans van Baalen. ‘The TTIP treaty is controversial, so you should not give the impression you want to keep some information to yourself.’
Van Baalen said he does agree that MPs should be required to keep some of the information confidential because it has an impact on competitition, such as environmental demands.
D66, the Christian Democrats and GroenLinks are also concerned. ‘Unease only increases if you stop sharing documents which used to be shared,’ said D66 parliamentarian Kees Verhoeven.
However, some Dutch MEPs say they have ‘sufficient’ access to the documents and Labour parliamentarian Jan Vos said ‘there are no big secrets’. ‘Negotiations are not always best served by total openness,’ he told the paper.
Meanwhile, doubts are being raised about whether the treaty will ever become a reality, the Volkskrant says.
The end of 2015 deadline has already been missed and a delay means the next US president may not be so accommodating to the ‘demanding Europeans’ as Barack Obama. In addition, the US is also involved in a trade treaty with Asia, the paper points out.
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