A Tiny Cell With An Omnipresent Guard, Visitors Just Twice A Day: TAFTA/TTIP's German Transparency Room
from the and-mind-you-behave,-children,-or-you-will-be-punished dept
One of the most problematic aspects of the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations is their lack of transparency. Although the European Commission, to its credit, has made available many of its initial offers and background papers, the key consolidated documents that show what’s really happening in the negotiations — and what deals are being cut — are reserved for the inner circle. Even national politicians within the EU have been denied access to these, and that has really rankled, particularly in Germany. In an effort to defuse the anger there over this manifestly anti-democratic approach, a special reading room has finally been set up in the German Ministry of Economy. As this report from the non-profit investigative newsroom Correctiv.org makes clear, it’s very special:
MPs have to schedule an appointment as the room opens only twice a day for two hours. Before entering the room, they have to leave their mobile phones and any electronic device in a secure locker.
They can read the documents only on a computer screen which is not connected to the Internet. They may take notes but are not allowed to copy any quotes from the consolidated texts.
And if any of the children — uh, politicians — are naughty, the US will be very, very cross, and may be forced to withdraw the privileges it has granted:
In the case of unauthorised disclosure of information, the US “may withdraw its consent to the placement of TTIP consolidated texts in any or all of the member states reading rooms?. This means if an MP leaks or quotes any sensitive information, the parliament may be denied access to the documents.
To keep an eye on things, a guard is present at all times in the room, which is very small — just 35 square meters in all (about 370 square feet). The War on Want site has a picture:
Starting in the top left corner and moving clockwise, the signs translate as follows: Lockers (for mobile phones etc) — Reference library (reference works) — Work stations (maximum 8 people) — Digital documents (negotiating language: English) — Supervisor (official of Ministry for Economic Affairs) — Computer (not networked) — Confidentiality agreement (must be signed before use).
These may be standard conditions for viewing negotiation documents in the US, but they are likely to be regarded as pretty insulting to German politicians — not least because all the documents are in English, and it has taken two and half years to achieve even this miserable level of transparency.