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Austria’s National Assembly expresses concern about CETA

A media release (in German) states that the National Council (one of the two houses of the Austrian parliament) is critical of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) being declared “complete” and that the Austrian federal minister (of the economy) Reinhold Mitterlehner spoke against this situation in Brussels.

The statement notes, “The resolution, which was introduced yesterday at very short notice of SPÖ [Social Democratic Party] and ÖVP [Austrian People’s Party], agreed to the majority in the National Assembly.”

The resolution reportedly says that CETA negotiations need to be continued after the Canada-EU summit tomorrow, that there is no need for an investor-state clause in CETA, and that CETA is a mixed agreement and the ratification process must involve all national parliaments.

This follows a tweet yesterday from Michel Reimon, an Austrian Member of the European Parliament, that stated, “Austrian parliament majority votes against #ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] in #CETA and asks @EU_Commission not to finish negotiations on Friday.”

He further wrote (in German) on his website about the parliament’s opposition to investor-state and a letter written to European leaders and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper stating that the negotiations on CETA should not be considered complete because national legislatures will have the final say on the deal.

While the translation is rough, it reads as: “Last night a spectacular diplomatic relations decision was passed in the Austrian House of Representatives. Werner Kogler [of the Austrian Green Party] brought an urgent request to provide these investment provisions, and then raged at the lectern so that SP and VP [acronyms unknown] fell over on stage. The National Council sent a letter to Ottawa, addressed to [European Commission president Jorge] Barroso, [European Council president Herman] van Rompuy and Harper, decided by the SPÖ, ÖVP, Greens and Neos [the New Austria party]: The investment clauses as not considered sensible, the three men do not like to assume better that negotiations would now complete, after all, had the national parliaments have the last word. This is not only diplomatically, but also strategically remarkable: In the SPÖ is in a direction fight for free trade agreements, ÖVP and Neos turn, are ardent supporters, but to discussion quieter of discussion, because the notice the broad resistance. If they do not now dare to vote against such a claim publicly, that’s a big step. Then, a majority of Representatives against CETA is actually within reach.”

Concerns being expressed by Austrian groups – ATTAC, Fian, GLOBAL 2000, ÖBV Via Campesina Austria, Pro-Ge, SÜDWIND – include the European Commission not listening to the concerns being expressed by national governments, the investor-state provision, the lowering of protections for workers and the environment, the minimizing of barriers to genetically engineered foods, and chlorinated chicken.

Along with Austria, it is believed that there is opposition/ concern at the governmental level to CETA in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg.

The Council of Canadians will be protesting the CETA ceremony in Ottawa tomorrow.