CETA: Under pressure,Commission allows national parliaments to decide on EU-Canada trade agreement but pushes for provisional application
GUE/NGL MEPs are very pleased that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will now require ratification by member states' national parliaments, but warn that provisional application of the agreement would have a devastating impact on public services, employment, farmers, SMEs and environmental and social standards in the meantime.
Following strong public pressure, the European Commission has announced today that CETA will now require ratification by member states' national parliaments, rendering it a 'mixed agreement'.
Previously, the Commission had insisted that it would be an 'EU-only agreement', which would only have required the approval of the European Council and European Parliament.
GUE/NGL Shadow Rapporteur, Anne-Marie Mineur, comments: “The entire negotiation procedure has been completely non-transparent, so it is great that national parliaments will finally have the opportunity to study and debate the proposed agreement, in an open discussion with the public."
The agreement is now expected to be sent to the European Council (where unanimity is required for its approval) and the European Parliament.
If approved by the Council and Parliament, the agreement will then be provisionally applied by the member states before their national parliaments have ratified it. So, in effect, once again the agreement may go ahead despite opposition from civil society until a national parliament rejects it.
GUE/NGL Coordinator for the International Trade Committee, Helmut Scholz, explains: "I welcome and recognise that the Commission has finally listened a little to the voices of citizens who have been raising serious concerns about the far-reaching impact of this agreement on their daily lives."
"Yet, the Commission still wants to force the agreement upon the people of Europe by enabling the agreement to be applied provisionally, before the member states' national parliaments have made their decisions. Even taking into account that this is a possibility laid down in the Lisbon Treaty regarding international trade, it is likely to generate negative and controversial reactions and consequences across Europe."
Anne-Marie Mineur explains further: "Although the agreement's highly controversial Investor-State Dispute Mechanism (ISDS) has been given a makeover under its new name – the 'Investment Court System' (ICS) – the same basic problem exists: corporations would have the ability to bypass national laws and regulations that protect human health and the environment. Even for a short period, this will have significant impact that may take many years to undo."
There are indications that some member states may not eventually ratify CETA, including Belgium (where a regional parliament recently passed a resolution against the agreement) and Bulgaria and Romania (where there is anger over ongoing visa restrictions for their citizens going to Canada).
With regards to the next steps, Mineur adds: "In the Netherlands, we could have a referendum if our parliament does not stop CETA. Given the impact this agreement would have on our society and our democratic system, I think a referendum is warranted.”
In the lead-up to today's decision, Mineur and Scholz were among 249 MEPs and national MPs, who recently wrote a joint letter to Commissioner Malmström to add pressure for the CETA agreement to be a mixed one.
They are now calling on member states to hear the voice of the people and reject this very damaging agreement.
GUE/NGL Press Contact:
Nikki Sullings +33 3881 76723 / +32 483 03 55 75
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)
European Parliamentary Group