CEO Appeals DG Trade Decision on Access to Documents

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Date: Amsterdam, 28 June 2019

To: Secretary-General
European Commission
B-1049 Brussels
Belgium

Subject: Access to Commission Documents - Appeal

Dear Secretary-General,

Herewith I would like to appeal the June 18 2002 decision of Director-General for Trade M.P. Carl to refuse me access to the documents I requested in my letter of April 26 2002. Please note that the April 26 letter was an appeal following the unsatisfactory response to my original request of February 19 2002. The Commission interpreted that the appeal was broader than the original request and decided to treat the appeal as an initial request (see attached).

The Commission's response is very unclear and does not distinguish between the four categories of documents mentioned in my request. It is therefore not clear if the arguments used to reject my request apply to all categories of documents. I will in this appeal assume that they do.

Mr. Carl argues that for "most of the meetings concerned the officials that attended have not prepared any written reports". If this would indeed be the case, it would constitute a serious lack of accountability on behalf of the Commission. I encourage the Commission to reinvestigate this point. In any case I would appreciate to know for which of the meetings reports do exist. It seems particularly unlikely that no EC reports were made of the meetings involving the ESF and the members of the 133 (services) Committee. "In those limited number of cases where reports have been prepared", Mr. Carl denies me access on the basis of Article 4(1) of Council Regulation 1049/2001 ("international relations"). Mr. Carl claims the reports "contain sensitive information either regarding third countries and / or the offensive or defensive interest of EC in future trade negotiations" and are therefore exempt from disclosure. I challenge this argument, as it unduly discriminates between industry and other civil society groups. There is no justification for withholding information (even if defined as "sensitive") when it is being shared with business interest groups, as is the case here. This information should obviously be available to all interested civil society, in the interest of increased transparency around the work of the Union institutions. Considering what is at stake in the GATS 2000 negotiations, for instance concerning essential public services, transparency around the EC decision- making on these issues is of crucial importance.

I therefore restate my request for access to:

  1. "all EC reports from EC meetings with the ESF, including the EC-ESF meeting on GATS and the distribution sector (10 December 2019)", but only received a report a December 2001 "meeting with EC industry" on "GATS 2000 / distribution". It is highly unlikely that no similar meetings with industry have taken place on other sectoral GATS 2000 issues, such as financial services, postal services, business/professional services, transport, telecommunication, energy, water, tourism, construction, education, environmental, health, audiovisual and social services.
  2. "all EC reports from ESF Policy Committee meetings attended by EC staff" (including the meetings that took place on 22 March 2019, 8 June 2019, 25 September 2019, 27 November 2019, 7 February 2019, etc.).
  3. "all EC reports from other ESF meetings attended by EC staff, including EC minutes from the meetings between the ESF and the members of the 133 (services) Committee (for instance on 20 June 2019, 14 November 2019 and 30 October 2019)."
  4. "all correspondence from the EC to the ESF (mail and email)." I had previously received correspondence sent by the EC to the ESF on the issue of trade barriers in the distribution sector (including lists of trade barriers in various countries), but not on the many other sectors covered by the GATS 2000 negotiations (about which correspondence almost certainly has taken place).

I expect a detailed response to my request for each of these four types of documents and look forward to a positive consideration of my appeal.

Yours sincerely,

Erik Wesselius
Corporate Europe Observatory

GATSwatch is a joint project of Corporate Europe Observatory and Transnational Institute
Paulus Potterstraat 20, 1071 DA Amsterdam, The Netherlands