Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The UK environmental group took up its right to formally complain after officials at the EC twice refused to publish documents relating to ongoing trade liberalisation talks.
Friends of the Earth wants the EU to publish documents containing EU negotiating demands as well as requests by other countries to the EU as part of ongoing discussions towards the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
Critics of GATS want negotiations made public because they believe the treaty will undermine democratic control over the provision of essential services such as health and education, as well as disrupting the delivery of these services to the poor, particularly in the Third World.
Friends of the Earth’s Corporate Globalisation Campaigner Eve Mitchell said: -Given the potential of GATS to affect much of our daily lives, it is vital that the process by which those agreements are reached is transparent and democratic. Parliamentarians and members of the public have simply not had access to key information.-
Mitchell said: -We want to get the information to people who need to know – nurses, unions – and to provide the possibility of some other input into the process, other than the government.-
Friends of the Earth asked the EC to publish details of requests by non-EU countries, such as the USA, to liberalise the provision of services in the EU, as well as details of the demands made by the EU to other World Trade Organisation members to open up their services to the private sector.
The EC refused to release the documents saying that to publish the information would undermine the protection of the public interest in regard of international relations. Friends of the Earth then made a formal complaint to the European Ombudsman, Professor P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, a former national ombudsman in Greece.
Although the Ombudsman has no binding powers on EC institutions, he can recommend that an EC body changes its position and failing this, can bring the matter to the attention of the European Parliament. However, a spokesman for the Ombudsman office said it normally takes six months to reach a decision.
Red Pepper has learned that the European Ombudsman has already dealt with a number of cases involving public requests for access to trade-related documents, many involving bilateral negotiations between the EU and US.
In addition to NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, other organisations have called for GATS negotiations to be made public. The European branch of the International Parliamentary Network, which includes a number of MEPs, said in October 2002: -GATS negotiations have been undertaken in total secrecy, with no democratic oversight whatsoever. Nothing justifies the fact that parliamentarians are not informed concerning these ongoing negotiations.-
-It is unacceptable that European and national parliamentarians, citizens, public service trade unions and NGOs should only be informed afterwards, when everything has already been decided, so that so-called “consultations” of the European or national parliaments become more formalities. Transparency should be the rule.-
A document leaked to NGOs and the media on 16 April 2002 showed the detailed requests made by the EU to 29 of its principal trading partners, including the USA and Canada, as well as less developed countries such as Brazil, Philippines and Indonesia. Requests included the liberalisation of major service sectors including water supply, waste treatment, energy, transportation, scientific research and postal services.
We work ourselves into the ground for little economic benefit. It's high time to for a change, writes Aidan Harper.
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright