Rumour has it that MEPs are complaining of boredom due to a lack of dossiers on their desks – this is certainly not the case for Bernd Lange, Chair of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee and Rapporteur for its TTIP report. The German MEP’s office faced an impressive challenge in recent weeks as they sought to tackle 900 amendments to their draft, which then evolved into over 60 compromise amendments, not to mention the difficult negotiating involved in the process. In addition to the mountain of amendments, they also had to consider, and try to include, opinions from 13 other committees, for it to have any chance at plenary in two weeks. How did that all end up you’ll ask? Well in an impressive seven voting lists, for a striking 90 pages. Lange admitted burning the midnight oil at the Parliament the night before, the final amendments still coming in as late as 00:48.
The vote got underway in a packed committee room as Mr Lange casually announced the vote would begin. There was an eerie silence among those in attendance as Lange called out the amendments. As time pressed on, the pace of the votes increased, and an almost jovial atmosphere emerged as cries of delight and disappointment could be heard rising from political factions and lobbyists alike. MEPs, too, were becoming animated as Mr Lange implored Members to “please stay cool” as they argued about withdrawn amendments.
After an hour and a half, and 7 voting lists later, the final vote arrived. With 28 in favour and 13 against, the vote will now be put before plenary on 10 June, where some MEPs will no doubt try to resurrect failed amendments.
Stakeholder reactions have been both positive and negative, with the largest uproar arising out of a seemingly lack of strong wording around the controversial ISDS mechanism. In other areas, such as health, the report calls for a ‘fair balance of IPRs and public interest’ by ‘preserving access to affordable medicines by continuing to support the TRIPS flexibilities.’
Darren Kinsella is Consultant and Kyra Obolensky Senior Director in FTI Consulting’s health care team in Brussels.