Greenpeace Germany exposed negotiating papers of the TTIP. The US negotiating party plays the incident down, but the political dynamite in Europe might have been laid. Political Pro-TTIP decision-makers are concerned about what could follow, now. But to others, a different question is far more decisive, with respect to the negotiated content: Is the common good at stake?
“If it comes the way it is, we will be living in a different world.”, Stefan Krug says, head of Greenpeace’s German political representation in Berlin on Monday, May 2, 2016. It was the proverbial “big bang” when he, together with Jürgen Knirsch, trade expert of the organization, revealed transcripts of the negotiation papers on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the so called “TTIP”.
It is a matter of 13 of the overall 17 consolidated negotiating texts that list the state of affairs in depth, bringing the positions of the EU and USA face to face.
The exposure has vociferated Michael Fuchs’ grievances, deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag: “The constitutional state has to defend itself against Greenpeace’s breaches of law by all means”, he told the German “Bild” newspaper on Saturday, May 7, 2016. However, Greenpeace now argues that there has been no transparency for months. But just this is a crucial part of the democracy's essence itself, and what has moved them to go public with the content, yet.
Conflict Lines, Put Bluntly
The TTIP has been an emotionally charged subject in Germany for months, now. Thereby, everyone welcomes free trade that provokes wealth. But the question is whether the interests of Europe’s citizens are fairly recognized in a balanced manner, opposed to US interests that rather foster intentions of multicorporate enterprises, their own ones in particular.
Behind these lines of conflict is the claim that democracy pretends to reflect the will of the citizens' majority. However, this would be ignored completely, democratic advocators say. There are private interests of a few, that is put over the common good. If one would "translate" the preferences to specific players, then it is like this (traditionally simplified): Europe is the keeper of the public "Grail", whereas the USA exemplifies the defender of the privately-held beneficial assets.
Is the Democracy in Jeopardy?
At the very beginning, both sides, the EU and the USA simultaneously, were promising themselves a lot of the TTIP agreement: Further eliminating of trade barriers, easier market access, ongoing reducing of tariffs etc.
But from Europe's public point of view, the negatives consequences are regarded predominant, meanwhile. TTIP would deteriorate agricultural standards, and also norms of work and services sharply. Thereby, no matter which point is mentioned, the dispute is always the same: Common good (EU) vs. beneficial interests (USA) (dumbing the tension down). Some examples make it clear:
State's Loss of Authority: Legitimacy Becomes Private
The issue of arbitration is what upsets protestors. Because to the conceptions of the US side, not publically authorized courts should dispense justice, but courts of arbitration, which administer behind closed doors. Arbitration proceedings are a privy, private matter. The state as the guardian of the common good will lose its power and authority.
Reason for Legal Action: If Gains are More Important
According to US conceivabilities, companies can accuse states just because the fact if their requirements that protect the public reduces gains. This threat of legal action against states let them withhold necessary steps for sustainable framework conditions. Interests of multinationals are regarded as imposed on the common good because the state fears exorbitantly negative consequences, once a decision is made in favour of multicorporate enterprises (investment protection). This scenario could cause a trend towards a further loss of state's authority, that genuinely performs the guardian responsibility of the common good.
Transparency - No Chance?
Proponents for democracy repeatedly emphasize how important transparency is within the Western societies. However, in the contrary, opacity causes a distrustful climate.
As arbitration proceedings are made of non-transparency because it is private, so are the TTIP negotiation results, too. There is no provision made for the public, making access for them to the final transcripts. The national parliaments only get insight, and the European parliament as well, which will have the final say in it.
What is next?
US Trade Representative Michael Froman, acting on behalf of the US Government, has enjoined the negotiating partners to hurry up with results, he stated in the German Broadcaster ARD on Tuesday, May 3. But, the end is left open.
Proponents that take up a differentiated point of view, call for a fair balancing of interests between the common good and private interests. They still see leeway in finding a level-headed solution for both sides.
Detractors of the TTIP deem it to have failed. Advocators, standing up for the common good and democratic transparency, do it, anyway. They fear what Stefan Krug, head of Greenpeace Germany in Berlin, said, namely: that everyone becomes living in a different world, then. Therefore, the motivation of Greenpeace's TTIP exposure seems to be clear: the danger for the society, that the private interest is held over the common good, and because of that, opacity could continue rather than transparency. Greenpeace's answer was not long incoming: The organisation made the TTIP transcripts available in the internet. The TTIP discussion is expected to continue in the aftermath of G7 sumit that will take place in Japan.