The remarkably empty TTIP reading room
The article from the FAZ Features Section focusses on the intransparency of the TTIP negotiations and the unwillingness of both the lead negotiators to change the situation and the national governments to use the rare opportunities to have an insight on the documents. After introducing some of the common worries regarding the treaty, as well as a new British action group called “Business Against TTIP”, it goes on to explain the procedures of access to the documents:
“The TTIP documents containing the negotiating positions are not only withheld from us mere mortals, they are also withheld from members of both the German parliament and from parliamentarians of other countries involved.
The only exceptions are a few selected members of the US Congress and the European Parliament who, once they have handed in their mobile phones and any other copying equipment, are allowed to go into a room specifically designed for the purpose, in order, under supervision, to look at some of the TTIP documents. Representatives of the economic elites involved in the negotiations are not, however, subject to such restrictions. They, by contrast, are issued with passwords so that they can have easy access online to the documents whenever they need it.
Since last May German government members and officials – but not members of parliament – have been granted access to the paperwork. They are permitted – and this is no joke – to go, in the mornings only, to a ‘reading room’ at the United States embassy in Berlin in order to study specific printed pages. When, last summer, a journalist at a German government press conference asked if any government member or official had actually subjected himself or herself to this dubious procedure, the Ministry of Economics – which leads on this portfolio – was unable to give a response. It was merely stated that there were currently 139 people at the ministry who potentially could avail themselves of the procedure.”
A more detailed parliamentary question by the German Green Party supposedly only led to a short answer by the government, stating that “in the course of eight months 37 people from different ministries have been to the ‘reading room’ – although no ministers were among them.”
The article finishes pointing out the difficulty of arguing either pro or contra the treaty without the possibility of actually knowing what it is about in detail.
FAZ, Germany, 25.1.2016: “The remarkably empty TTIP reading room”