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  EU hauled to court over secrecy in India
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Date: 15 February 2011

Source: Reuters

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/15/eu-trade-transparency-idUSLDE71D1Q920110215

Transparency campaigners have hauled the European Union`s executive to court for withholding documents about free trade talks with India, intensifying pressure on the bloc to make its policy-making less secretive.

The lawsuit, lodged with the EU`s second-highest court on Tuesday, accuses the EU Commission of breaking transparency and democracy rules by refusing to disclose to campaigners details of plans shared with EU 
industry on how to open Indian markets.

"Industry lobbies enjoy massively privileged access and influence in trade negotiations, even when there are concerns from other quarters that this is threatening Indian labour rights and access to medicines," said Pia Eberhardt, campaigner for Corporate Europe Observatory, which lodged the complaint.

Campaigners are focusing on India because the EU is expected to complete a free trade agreement with the rapidly developing nation this year following almost four years of negotiations.

The case, lodged in the European General Court, concerns the Commission`s refusal over 18 months to give campaigners full access to email exchanges and notes from meetings with EU governments and business groups about how to export more pork, poultry, medical equipment and car tyres to India.

The Commission deleted key passages from the notes before giving them to the Observatory, citing rules to protect international relations, according to documents obtained by Reuters.

"If the Commission has already shared information with the business  world at large, the same information cannot suddenly become  confidential when a public interest group asks for it," Eberhardt said.

The claim says the Commission sent full notes to lobby groups including BusinessEurope, the EU`s largest employers` organisation.

 

Keywords: EU / India / Trade