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Just the TTIP of the Iceberg? Dynamics and Effects of Information Leaks in EU Politics

  • Ronny Patz (a1)

“[M]any observers agree that the Commission has been ‘leaking like a sieve’”.

Leaks have become a major element of European Union politics. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) leak in early May 2016 is neither the first of its kind nor will it be the last. Transparency by leaks – or “transleakancy” as the series of publications of confidential TTIP negotiation documents has already been coined – is one element of the political game that different interest groups, governmental and non–governmental, play on both sides of the Atlantic. And yet, leaked EU documents have been shared in wider policy-networks all along, independent of whether they have received media attention or not. The difference is that leaks similar to those that we see on TTIP have reached a new level of importance. Here, themere fact of their existence makes them newsworthy. The impact of these leaks on public debates is seen as amajor risk for negotiators.

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1 Grønbech–Jensen, Carsten, “The Scandinavian tradition of open government and the European Union: problems of compatibility?”, 5 Journal of European Public Policy (1998), pp. 185 et sqq., at p. 191.

2 Documents published by Greenpeace Netherlands at (Last accessed: 19 May 2016).

3 Herrmann, Christoph, “Transleakancy” in Herrmann, Christoph, Simma, Bruno, Streinz, Rudolf (eds.) Trade policy between law, diplomacy and scholarship. Liber amicorum in memoriam of Horst G. Krenzler (Cham et al.: Springer 2015), pp. 39 et sqq.

4 Ronny Patz, “Information flows in the context of EU policymaking : affiliation networks and the post–2012 reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy”, Doctoral Thesis, University of Potsdam (2014), available at: (last accessed: 19 May 2016).

5 Josef Eibauer, “Blessing or curse? The effects of transparency on the European Commission's success at the international ACTA negotiations”, Working Papers by the Center for International Political Economy 14(2014), at pp. 14-15; (last accessed: 19 May 2016).

6 Grønbech–Jensen 1998, “The Scandinavian tradition of open government”, supra note 1; Wilhelm Magnusson, “Non–state actors’ role in the EU forest policy making – A study of Swedish actors and the Timber Regulation negotiations”; Master Thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Products (2014); available at: (last accessed: 19 May 2016), at pp. 36-37.

7 Cf. Jong, Jurgen De, Vries, Michiel de, Michiel “Towards unlimited transparency? Morals and facts concerning leaking to the press by public officials in the Netherlands”, 27 Public Administration and Development (2007), pp. 215 et sqq.; Flynn, Kathryn, “Covert Disclosures – Unauthorized leaking, public officials and the public sphere; 7 Journalism Studies (2006), pp. 256 et sqq., at p. 258.

8 Hood, Christopher, “From FOI World to WikiLeaks World: A New Chapter in the Transparency Story?”, 24 Governance (2011), pp. 635 et sqq.

9 See for example: Coleman, William D., Tangermann, Stefan, “The 1992 CAP Reform, the Uruguay Round and the Commission: Conceptualizing Linked Policy Games”, 37 JMCS: Journal of Common Market Studies (1999), pp. 385 et sqq.; Convery, Frank J., Redmond, Luke, “Market and Price Developments in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme”, 1 Review of Environmental Economics & Policy (2007), pp. 88 et sqq.; Kassim, Hussein, Dimitrakopoulos, Dionyssis G., “The European Commission and the future of Europe”, 14 Journal of European Public Policy (2007), pp. 1249 et sqq.,

10 Corcoran, Farrel, Fahy, Declan, “Exploring the European elite sphere”, 10 Journalism Studies (2009), pp. 100 et sqq.

11 Chalmers, Adam W., “Interests, Influence and Information: Comparing the Influence of Interest Groups in the European Union”, 33 Journal of European Integration (2011), pp. 471 et sqq.

12 Hussein and Dimitrakopoulos 2007, “The European Commission and the future of Europe”, supra note 9.

13 Rosén, Guri, “EU Confidential: The European Parliament's Involvement in EU Security and Defence Policy”, 53 JMCS: Journal of Common Market Studies (2014), pp. 383 et sqq.

14 Brandsma, Gijs J., “The effect of information on oversight: the European Parliament's response to increasing information on comitology decision–making”, 78 International Review of Administrative Sciences (2012), pp. 74 et sqq.

15 Curtin, Deirdre, “Overseeing Secrets in the EU: A Democratic Perspective”, 52 JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies (2014), pp. 684 et sqq.

16 Meyer, Christoph C., “Political Legitimacy and the Invisibility of Politics: Exploring the European Union's Communication Deficit”. 37 JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies (1999), pp. 617 et sqq.; Corcoran and Fahy 2009, “Elite Sphere”, supra note 10.

17 Greer, Alan, Hind, Thomas, “Inter–institutional decision–making: The case of the Common Agricultural Policy”, 31 Policy and Society (2012), pp. 331 et sqq.; Klavert, Henrike, Keijzer, Niels, “A review of stakeholders’ views on CAP reform”; ODI research paper (Maastricht , 2012); available at: (last accessed: 19 May 2016).

18 Losey, James, “The Anti–Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and European Union Civil Society: A Case Study on Networked Advocacy” 4 Journal of Information Policy (2014), pp. 205 et sqq.; Dür, Andreas, Mateo, Gemma, “Public opinion and interest group influence: how citizen groups derailed the Anti–Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”, 21 Journal of European Public Policy, pp. 1199 et sqq.

19 Hussein and Dimitrakopoulos 2007, “The European Commission and the future of Europe”, supra note 9.

20 Losey 2014, “The Anti–Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”, supra note 18.

21 Patz 2014, “Information flows in EU policy–making”, supra note 4.

22 Michael, Gabriel J., “Who's Afraid of WikiLeaks? Missed Opportunities in Political Science Research”, 32 Review of Policy Research (2015), pp. 175 et sqq.

23 Karoline H. Flåm, “A Multi–level Analysis of the EU Linking Directive Process. The Controversial Connection between EU and Global Climate Policy”, FNI Report 8/2007, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, available at: (last accessed 19 May 2016).

24 Chalmers 2011, “Interests, Influence and Information”, supra note 11.

25 Hussein and Dimitrakopoulos 2007, “The European Commission and the future of Europe”, supra note 9.

26 Coleman and Tangermann 1999, “The 1992 CAP Reform”, supra note 9.

27 Dür and Mateo 2014, “Public opinion and interest group influence”, supra note 18.

28 On the different principals in the TTIP negotiations see Bergkamp, Lucas and Kogan, Lawrence, “Trade, the Precautionary Principle, and Post–Modern Regulatory Process. Regulatory Convergence in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, 4 European Journal of Risk Regulation (2014), pp. 493 et sqq.

29 Hugg, Patrick R. and Wilkinson, Sheila M., “The 2014 European Parliament Elections and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Economics and Politics Collide”, 24 Journal of Transnational Law & Policy (2014-15), pp. 116 et sqq., at 148-52.

30 See priority “A balanced EU-US Free Trade Agreement” at (last accessed: 19 May 2016).

31 European Commission, “Commission Work Programme 2015. A New Start”, Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Council and the Committee of the Regions, COM(2014)910 final, 16.12.2014, at p. 8.

32 For example by Corporate Europe Observatory, see: (last accessed: 19 May 2016).

33 Abazi, Vigjilenca and Hillebrandt, Maarten, “The legal limits to confidential negotiations: Recent case law developments in Council transparency: Access Info Europe and In 't Veld”, 52 Common Market Law Review (2015), pp. 825 et sqq., at p. 844.

34 Grønbech–Jensen 1998, “The Scandinavian tradition of open government”, supra note 1, at p. 191.

35 Regulation 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, O.J. 2001, L 145/43.

36 Christoph Herrmann, “Transleakancy”, supra note 3.

37 Hagemann, Sara and Franchino, Fabio, “Transparency vs efficiency? A study of negotiations in the Council of the European Union”, European Union Politics (2016), DOI: 10.1177/1465116515627017, at p. 18.

38 Alemanno, Alberto, “The Regulatory Cooperation Chapter of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Institutional Structures and Democratic Consequences”, 18 Journal of International Economic Law (2015), pp. 625 et sqq., at p. 630.

39 Cremona, Marise, “Guest Editorial: Negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)”, 52 Common Market Law Review (2015), pp. 351 et sqq., at p. 361.

40 Pozen, David E., “The Leaky Leviathan: Why the Government Condemns and Condones Unlawful Disclosures of Information”, 127 Harvard Law Review (2013), pp. 512 et sqq., at p. 514.

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