Representatives of the Stop TTIP platform, which brings together some civil society organisations, said at a news conference on Thursday that according to information available to them, there could be a conflict of interest in the procedure to select the agency to make a study on the impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Croatia, commissioned by the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry.

The Stop TTIP platform brings together GONG, BRID, the Centre for Peace Studies, the Centre for Democratisation and the Green Action and those NGOs claim, referring to an article by journalist Hrvoje Simicevic on the H-Alter portal, that the government intends to entrust the making of the study to organisations and individuals who have lobbied for TTIP.

Those are Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), which strongly advocates TTIP, and the Centre for International Development (CMR), which was founded and is run by Ante Babic, an economist who in a number of interviews has underlined the benefits of TTIP for the EU and Croatia, the NGOs said.

Hrvoje Radovanovic of the Green Action proposed that as soon as the new parliament was inaugurated all parliamentary parties should entrust the Committee on European Affairs with commissioning a study on the impact of TTIP via an invitation to publicly financed research institutions in Croatia. The study should be made in consultation with a broad range of actors relevant for the understanding of the impact of TTIP on different segments of the economy, labour rights, provision of public services, education and environmental protection, he said.

A final decision on TTIP should be made by the national parliaments of the EU countries and it is the Croatian parliament that should organise a public debate, to be followed by a political debate, on whether the impact of TTIP is more beneficial or more harmful for Croatia, the platform's members said.

Duje Prkut of GONG said that results of the process to select the study maker were not published on the foreign ministry's web site and were not mentioned in the register of public procurement contracts either and that the ministry did not respond to GONG's request to access information on the selected bidder, sent on October 14.

We want to know if the selected bidder has the necessary competencies to analyse the broad spectrum of effects of TTIP as defined in the public procurement documentation, rather than only analysing the effects that concern export-oriented sectors and foreign investments, and if the cost of HRK 196,000 for such an insignificant procurement was in line with the expected scope of research, said Prkut.

The civil activists also distributed to reporters a letter from Federation of Independent Croatian Trade Unions leader Mladen Novosel with a request to Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic to inform the public immediately if the government had actually selected PwC Croatia and Babic's CMR to make the study. If that is the case, the government should immediately withdraw its decision because the study would not be impartial, Novosel says in the letter.

Babic told Hina that the ministry had commissioned the study and would decide on whether to accept it or not, weighing arguments for and against, and possibly request a new study.

He said that his positions on TTIP concerned exports and economic theory and that the study would be based on facts.

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