National parliaments, including the German Bundestag and the French and Italian Senates, also requested access to the negotiating documents. The Conference of EU Affairs Committees of Member State Parliaments (COSAC) has repeatedly called for more transparency in the negotiations. In December 2015, the United States and the Commission reached an agreement, with the result that members of national parliaments can now consult the consolidated negotiating documents in specially equipped secure reading rooms. The general arrangements were discussed in late December 2015 in the Committee of Permanent Representatives within the Council. The Member States were in charge of setting up the reading room for their parliament’s members in the ministry of their choice. The procedure for consulting the documents (MD 349/15 REV 2, and set out in Council document 14029/15), which is common to all Member States, was negotiated with the US by the Commission and submitted for approval to the Member States in the Council.
For all reading rooms, secrecy is the rule and members of national parliaments are only allowed a pencil to take notes, as is also the case for MEPs and government officials. Classified documents cannot be divulged under the rules stipulated in the Council Decision of 23 September 2013 on the security rules for protecting EU classified information. Access to the documents was allowed in order to involve the legislature in discussion with the executive on the negotiations, and in view of a possible requirement for ratification by national legislatures in the event that the agreement is declared ‘mixed’. Accordingly, Belgium also negotiated access to documents for the sub-federal level, considering the role of sub-federal parliaments in ratifying international treaties.