German vice-chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has shared with me his thoughts about transparency in the EU-US trade negotiations, as did Bundestag President Norbert Lammert earlier this summer. I will speak to minister Gabriel directly in the coming days but, given the public debate about this issue, I would like to publicly clarify my position.
One of my first decisions as Trade Commissioner was to further strengthen the transparency of the TTIP negotiations. Sharing information with the national governments of the Member States, with Members of the European Parliament and with members of national parliaments is key to ensuring democratic scrutiny of the negotiations and informed debate based on facts.
The Commission has always made all TTIP documents available to the national governments of the Member States and will continue to do so. Members of the European Parliament also have full access to the EU's proposals and positions. Furthermore, we have published virtually all the EU’s negotiating positions and textual proposals. This is key because these texts will end up as a part of the final agreement. Anyone can see them - they are all on our website. We have also published summaries and explanations about our objectives in the negotiations in clear, non-legal language in all EU official languages.
The current debate about transparency in some Member States seems to have been caught up in a fog of confusion: there are no new general restrictions - one single document has been placed in a reading room. This was a temporary measure so we could take time to think how to ensure a minimum confidentiality for a document that includes our internal discussions and tactical deliberations. As Minister Gabriel also points out, while being open we also have to ensure some space for internal debate.
This decision seems to have created some unnecessary confusion; I regret that. To avoid such misunderstandings in the future and as part of our ongoing efforts to maximise transparency around the TTIP negotiations, the Commission will from now on publish detailed and extensive reports of the negotiations on its website in all EU official languages.
How national governments inform members of their national parliaments is their responsibility. I recognise that it is indispensable for national parliamentarians to be fully informed of EU trade negotiations and will, therefore, support national governments in their efforts to ensure that national parliamentarians have access to the information they require in order to exercise effective democratic control. I will ensure that my services are ready to assist the governments of EU Member States in providing all the necessary information to the members of national parliaments, including Bundestag. The only changes in my trade policy will be more openness, not less. That is the pledge I gave at the beginning of my mandate. I am committed to keeping that promise.