By Guest author

On 29 September the public hearing on Cecilia Malmström, the EU Commissioner-designate for Trade took place. The day before, Der Spiegel published an article revealing an email exchange indicating that Malmström and/or her cabinet had been covertly working with the US at an early stage in the development of the European Commission’s General Proposal for Data Protection Regulation – even before a draft had been officially communicated to any elected European politician.

According to the document in question, Malmström’s private office was subverting data protection reform from within the Commission, sharing with the US information about internal procedures and appropriate times to push for the publication of a US lobbying paper. The claims were brought up three times by Members of the European Parliament (MEP) during the hearing. Malström initially dismissed the claims as “false allegations” or “lies” based on “leaked emails,” even though the document in question had been acquired by Access through a formal Freedom of Information Act request. The morning after the hearing, Access sent an open letter to Malmström asking the Commissioner-designate to clarify her stance on the authenticity of the document. In response, she recognised the document as legitimate, but didn’t address its implications or acknowledge the need for an investigation. Her relaxed approach to evidence that, at the very least, one of her most senior staff was conspiring against the European Commission is baffling.

The content of this email raises serious concerns regarding Malmström’s suitability as Trade Commissioner. As Home Affairs Commissioner, she had already curtailed an investigation into the US’s unlawful usage of the SWIFT banking database as part of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. After it was made explicit that data pulled by the US was being used for coercion outside of terrorist investigations (like blocking a Germany-to-Cuba private transaction), the Parliament called for an inquiry; Malmström halted the probe based only on “written reassurance” by the US that the data was used for legitimate purposes. As Trade Commissioner, she would be in charge of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, an already controversial and completely non-transparent process. Potentially the world’s biggest trade agreement, the TTIP could likewise impact multiple industries and strongly affect the rights of the EU citizens. In this context, concerns about Malmström’s extreme deference to the US is frightening.

Despite those concerns, after receiving a letter from the future Commissioner asserting that she had never shared information with the US during the development of the Data Protection Regulation and that “to her knowledge” no-one in her cabinet did either, the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament decided to confirm Malmström as Commissioner for Trade on 30 September.

Response to Access’ Freedom of Information Act request
https://www.accessnow.org/page/-/docs/foia/JN656%20–%20Released%20to%20Requester.pdf

Big brother’s little helper inside the European Commission (27.09.2014)
https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2014/09/27/big-brothers-little-helper-inside-the-european-commission

Malmstrom’s response to the INTA committee (30.09.2014)
https://www.accessnow.org/page/-/Commissioner%20Malmstr%C3%B6m%20letter%20to%20the%20INTA%20Committee.PDF

Access’ open letter to Commissioner-designate for Trade, Cecilia Malmström (30.09.2014)
https://www.accessnow.org/page/-/docs/Open_letter_to_Commissioner_Malmstrm.pdf

Malmström’s answer to Access’ open letter (30.09.2014)
http://ec.europa.eu/carol/index-iframe.cfm?fuseaction=download&documentId=090166e59a03255c&title=reply_to%20access.pdf

S&Ds accept Malmström nomination but call on Juncker to clarify his stand on ISDS (30.09.2014)
http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-accept-malmstr%C3%B6m-nomination-call-juncker-clarify-his-stand-isds

(Contribution by Alix Ladent, EDRi-member Access, International)

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