De Jong: Timmermans must withdraw proposal on protection of company secrets

3 February 2015

De Jong: Timmermans must withdraw proposal on protection of company secrets

The European Parliament has commenced consideration of a European Commission proposal on the protection of company secrets. In the SP’s view, this is an unnecessary and dangerous measure, as Euro-MP Dennis de Jong explains: ‘In public consultations 75% of respondents were against, but the Commission is stubbornly sticking to its ideas. They are trying to improve protection of company secrets, not only against commercial misuse, but also by restricting access to such information on the part of national authorities, whistle-blowers and investigative journalists. There simply isn’t any need for a proposal of this kind.’

De Jong has moved that the proposal be scrapped, but is pessimistic about his motion finding a majority in the European Parliament. ‘It’s rare that the EP finds the courage to throw out a proposal lock, stock and barrel. So I’ve also put forward a large number of amendments: I want governments to retain the right, in the public interest in relation to information touching upon public health, to demand information on the composition, production and effectiveness of medicines, and I don’t want this made impossible through an appeal to company secrecy. The same goes for product safety, and information on the use of chemicals in a range of everyday products is essential for the authorities.’

Journalists and whistle-blowers are likely to be amongst the victims of this proposed new law. ‘The right to expose abuses must remain,’ insists De Jong. ‘You don’t do that by giving corporations the right to make journalists and whistle-blowers liable for publication of company secrets.’

The Commission believes new rules to be needed because in its view cross-border cooperation between European corporations around research and innovation will only occur if company secrets receive better protection. De Jong rejects this argument. ‘Plenty of cooperation is already taking place and the Commission can’t assume that this is being actively hindered by differences in legislation and enforcement. Furthermore, modern entrepreneurs are in fact working together increasingly by sharing know-how. That’s good for innovation and especially for smaller firms. So this is a typical case of unnecessary legislation and there is every reason for Commissioner Timmermans to urge his colleagues to drop it.’

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