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ClientEarth Communications

15th September 2015

Rule of law
Access to Justice for a Greener Europe

Trilogue meetings threaten safeguards in trade secrets law

The EU’s Ombudsman has been called upon to address the lack of transparency in trilogue negotiations.

The draft Trade Secrets Directive is an attempt to harmonise trade secret protection across the EU. ClientEarth has written a series of blogs on the threat it poses to the right of EU citizens to know how industry practice endangers our health and the environment we live in.

Trilogue meetings undermine EU democracy

Today the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission entered into a series of “trilogue” meetings. The aim is to negotiate a compromise text to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council as quickly as possible. The meetings take place behind closed doors among a handful of high-level officials. No information on the discussions will be revealed until the process has come to an end. Once adopted, the compromise will be voted on by the Parliament and then by the Council, leaving no room for further discussion.

This is a far cry from how the legislative process is supposed to work. The EU’s founding treaties contain detailed rules on how legislation should be adopted. They stress the importance of open and transparent debate. Trilogue negotiations, which have become standard practice in the way the EU adopts laws, break almost every one of these rules.

ClientEarth is not the only organisation worrying about the EU’s democratic credentials when it comes to trilogues. In May, the EU’s Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the lack of transparency within trilogues. ClientEarth is playing an active role in it by lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman against the three institutions taking part in the meetings and refusing to act transparently .

Heading towards more confidentiality in industry practice

MEPs in the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament made a number of amendments to the draft law. These help safeguard access to information rights (including greater protection for public authorities and whistleblowers who disclose information in the public interest), ensure the right level of protection for journalists, and limit the scope of the directive. We know many member states and the Commission are against these amendments and will put pressure on the Parliament to drop them from the final text. With trilogue negotiations taking place in secret, civil society can’t facilitate public debate on the discussions and maintain pressure on decision-makers to defend their position.

We must show the EU’s institutions that they are still accountable to their electorate. Tell policymakers to protect people and the planet by signing the petition on!