Earlier this year, the European Commission was faced with a problem. The inclusion of dangerous, anti-democratic “investor-state dispute resolution” (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the planned EU/US trade agreement, was threatening to become a major political problem. There was a particular danger for the Commission that this would become an issue in the European Parliament elections. The temporary solution that was found by the Commission was to launch a “consultation”. By appearing not to have made up its mind on the issue, this was intended to take the heat out of the debate until it was too late for democratic input by European citizens. The strategy worked very well for the European Commission as it did, indeed, reduce the impact of ISDS on the election campaign.
However, the European Commission would still have preferred to be told that it was correct to include ISDS in trade agreements. In a spectacular example of “worst practice” in framing what was (in theory, at least) a neutral, open consultation, the Commission included propaganda explaining why it believed that ISDS was necessary and asked citizens to answer the questions “bearing in mind” the sales pitch that the Commission had provided. This is not politically competent. This is not methodologically competent. This is not an open consultation in any reasonable understanding of those words.
The consultation generated a huge number of responses from citizens opposing the sell-out of European democracy and judicial systems. Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht was baffled. He could not understand why citizens would not do what they were told and simply believe the propaganda that they were given. He could not understand the temerity of ordinary people expressing views different from those that his staff put in his briefing papers. His response was to describe the large volumes of responses as an “attack” on the Commission.
But it gets worse, now it transpires that, at the same time as the Commission was claiming that it wanted to get feedback on ISDS, it had included provisions in the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA). Not alone this, but analysis of the leaks shows (in perfect consistency with the European Commission’s approach) that the Commission has abjectly failed to include the safeguards that it had previously promised, and, according to analysts, was unaware of this! DG Trade cannot, it appears, even do bad properly.
EU re-think following discovery of major flaw in CETA shows the benefits of transparency (19.03.2014)
EDRi: EU Commissioner on ISDS consultation: “An outright attack” (30.07.2014)
Statement of concern about planned provisions on investment protection and ISDS in the TTIP