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Bulgarian president opposes CETA, says it will be referred to Constitutional Court

CETA faces a ratification vote in the Bulgarian parliament.

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) continues to encounter obstacles in its lengthy ratification process in European member state parliaments.

The Bulgarian news service Novinite.com reports, “President Rumen Radev said he had never welcomed and would never welcome the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.”

President Radev says, ‘’In my capacity as the Bulgarian President and guardian of the Constitution, I will refer the matter to the Constitutional Court because CETA requires amendments to the Basic Law and the Constitutional Court will have to pronounce on their legal conformity. From now on CETA is in the hands of the Bulgarian Parliament, which will vote on its ratification.”

In order to be fully implemented, CETA must be ratified by all 38 national and regional legislatures in the European Union.

In October 2016, just after the CETA signing ceremony in Brussels, The Globe and Mail reported, “[It has] emerged [that CETA] could be scrapped at any time before final ratification. [That’s because] the EU and Belgium have now agreed that any one of Belgium’s regions can scrap CETA at any time before the final ratification vote if MPs don’t believe CETA is working. That would effectively kill the treaty because it would mean Belgium couldn’t ratify it.”

Now The Brussels Times reports, “[Paul Magnette, the Minister-President of the Belgian region of Wallonia] stated that the Walloons were not the most anxious to see the treaty applied in its entirety. The Minister-President recalled that Wallonia had only given the green light to the signature of CETA after receiving an undertaking that nineteen commitments would be embodied into the agreement. He concluded, ‘We want these provisions to be fully integrated into the agreement otherwise we will not ratify the treaty.'”

And in December 2016, a European Court of Justice advocate general wrote that ‘free trade’ agreements must be ratified by all thirty-eight national and regional parliaments in the European Union. The Luxembourg-based court will publish its final ruling in three to six months (meaning sometime between March and June of this year), but it follows the views of advocate generals in a majority of cases. That ruling would then confirm that EU member states (and regions) other than Belgium could still scuttle CETA.

Beyond Belgium, there are indications that CETA is facing a tough road to ratification in several other EU member states. Notably, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands that is likely to produce a strong ‘no to CETA’ vote. The Guardian has reported, “Activists in the Netherlands have gathered almost two-thirds of the signatures needed to lay the groundwork for a referendum on [CETA]. The petition can only be launched once parliament has ratified the deal, something that is not expected before parliamentary elections due in March 2017.”

That election in the Netherlands will take place this March 15.