Scholars disagree over EU’s lack of transparency

Catherine Titi, Sales Marques (center) and Fernando Dias Simoes

Last week, two scholars conducted a discussion at the Rui Cunha Foundation on trade agreements and international investments currently being negotiated with China, the United States and Canada.

One of the scholars analyzed how the Treaty of Lisbon has given the European Parliament greater power in several sectors including agriculture, immigration and the management of union funds.

The treaty also strengthened the rights of citizens and associations to participate in the democratic life of the union, as it required union institutions to maintain open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative organizations.

Catherine Titi, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, recalled that the Treaty entered into force at the end of 2009, giving new legislative powers to the European Parliament.

This put it on equal footing with the European Council in the decision- making process for EU actions.

Fernando Dias Simões, a professor at the University of Macau’s Faculty of Law, was also present at the debate.

The scholars recalled that agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economy and Trade Agreement (CETA) could have a significant impact on the residents of countries involved in the agreement, particularly in healthcare regulation, quality and food safety, among other matters.

The TTIP is a proposed trade agreement between the EU and the United States, which aims to promote trade and multilateral economic growth.

CETA is a free-trade agreement between the EU and Canada, which would eliminate 98 percent of the tariffs between the two parties.

The European Parliament voted in favor of CETA on February 15, but EU national parliaments still have to approve the treaty before it can take full effect.

“This is a comprehensive investment agreement. […] The treaty has been signed but it is not into force yet, it needs to be the ratified,” said Titi to the Times.

Simões implied that there is a lack of transparency in the EU’s administration.

Several years ago, a group of environmental lawyers sued the EU over alleged attempts to restrict access to information, following a lack of transparency in union policy.

However Titi contended that the lack of transparency was exaggerated.

“This lack of transparency is exaggerated, especially regarding the EU negotiations with CETA, even more so with TTIP,” she said.

“The process has been reasonably transparent so the EU has been publicizing the documents […] There is a lot of information that is becoming available and so I think the lack of transparency is also a bit of a myth,” she continued.

Regarding the EU-China relationship, Titi stated that EU investors who wish to invest in China do not have access to the Chinese market, which is why one of the agreement’s aims is to convince China to treat all domestic and international investors equally.

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