Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The EU Commission’s Own Goal

European Citizens Initiative to halt TTIP (TAFTA) and CETA Trade Deals Rejected

The European Commission has rejected the registration of a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) to stop the secretive negotiations concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the USA and also to stop the ratification of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada. 
An online petition to support the ECI has attracted more than 600,000 signatures so far and the European Commission’s rejection of the Initiative, with its attendant publicity, is surely  an own goal which will lead to even more public concern and also fuel support for Eurosceptic groups who are attracting more and more votes in many European countries.

The text of the ECI was as follows:

"We invite the European Commission to recommend to the Council to repeal the negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and not to conclude the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)"

The application was submitted under the rules established by the Lisbon Treaty in 2012 for a”European Citizens Initiative”.  It was rejected by the EU Commission on the grounds that, although negotiations for these wide ranging trade agreements are proceeding in line with mandates written by the EU Trade Commissioner and agreed by the member states, there was no “act” by the Commission which could be reversed. A second reason was that negative ECI’s are not valid. (See the EU's reasons for rejection here).

Michael Efler, contact person for the ECI, which currently represents almost 230 organizations from 21 EU countries, said:

 “Now the battle really begins. The rejection of the ECI only confirms the Commission’s strategy to exclude citizens and parliaments from the TTIP and CETA negotiations. Instead of paying attention to citizens, it is just lobbyists that are being listened to.”
“In its rejection of the ECI, the European Commission claims that the negotiating mandates on TTIP and CETA are not legal acts but internal preparatory acts between EU institutions and therefore not contestable via an ECI.
The Commission’s view that only acts with an effect on third parties are permissible for an ECI is obviously a legal error. The negotiating mandate of the Commission is a formal decision of the Council and therefore a legal act. If the Commission’s legal opinion had any substance, then in plain English this would mean that Europe’s population is excluded from participation in the development of any kind of international agreements – information that is as frightening as it is scandalous,” according to Efler.
What’s more, the Commission claims that it cannot make negative ratification proposals and therefore cannot comply with the ECI demand not to conclude the CETA and TTIP negotiations. “Contrariwise, this means that citizens can only applaud international negotiations carried out by the Commission, but not criticize them,” said Efler.

This means that the EU Commission, as well as conducting negotiations in secret, wishes to stifle any participation by citizens' groups in such trade negotiations.

“Apparently the Commission is afraid of this ECI, which has the potential to become the most successful citizens’ initiative so far,” said Efler. “If the Brussels bureaucracy thinks that this is how it can stop people’s protests against TTIP and CETA, then it is mistaken. We will not allow the Commission to tie our hands. ”

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Kempen, a German law professor from the University of Cologne, is very clear in his legal opinion on the EU Commission’s ruling, carried out at the request of the proposers of the ECI, and in his conclusions on page 22 his view is completely the opposite to that of the EU Commission.

The TTIP Wooden Horse

If it is not stopped the EU soon intends to sign these two far-reaching trade agreements. The negotiations were based on mandates written by the EU Commission and approved by the Council of Ministers.  

The official line is that this will create jobs and increase economic growth. But the study that was commissioned by the EU itself predicted an increase in economic growth, averaged over the whole of the EU of only 0.5% by 2030.

The real beneficiaries of these agreements, however,will not be citizens but big corporations, who will be given wide ranging rights to challenge democratically validated standards, laws and decisions:
  • Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS): Canadian and US companies would have the right to sue the EU for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of government decisions (for instance new laws to protect the environment or consumer rights).
  • Improving or even maintaining our standards for food, labour rights, environmental protection and consumer rights will become much harder.
  • Liberalisation and privatisation would effectively become irreversible.
  • The EU and its member states would come under pressure to allow risky technologies such as fracking or genetic modification.
  • CETA and TTIP would increase the power of multinationals at the expense of democracy and the public

Please sign the European Citizens Initiative here http://stop-ttip.org/sign/


Post a Comment