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CETA could unravel with decisive Syriza win in Greece

The people of Greece celebrate the Syriza win.

Today the people of Greece elected a Syriza government. Exit polls show that the party has won between 146 and 158 seats in the 300-member Hellenic parliament (the final election results will be available by tomorrow morning). While Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left) has been mostly in the news because of its vow to cancel the brutal austerity measures imposed by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, it has also stated that if elected it would not ratify the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ agreement.

Photo: Our friend and water justice ally Yiorgos Archontopoulos votes in the election today.

In December 2013, the BBC reported, “The leftist Syriza bloc, the main opposition group, rejects the EU-Canada deal. ‘A SYRIZA-led government will veto the agreement’, says Thanassis Petrakos, a SYRIZA MP.” And in October 2014, the Syriza delegation at the European Parliament issued a media release that stated, “The Syriza Delegation categorically opposes the ratification of these agreements [CETA and the EU-United States Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] and calls the Greek population to participate in the pan-European mobilisation against [them]…”

In an open letter to Greek voters shared six days ago, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “Many Canadians will be watching to see the outcome of the election on January 25. We have seen the polls that suggest Syriza will defeat the New Democracy government. This gives us hope given our opposition to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). …We agree [with Syriza] that both deals [CETA and TTIP] need to be stopped. That’s because even if TTIP were to be stopped, Canadian subsidiaries of US-headquartered transnational corporations would still be able to use [the investor-state provision in] CETA to sue your country.” Her letter in Greek can be read here.

Following the headlines about the Newfoundland and Labrador government suspending their commitment to be bound by CETA, today’s election win in Greece casts further doubt over the future of the deal. That’s because even if Newfoundland and Labrador cannot stop the ratification of CETA in Canada (as federal trade minister Ed Fast contends) and if Greece alone among 28 European Union member state national legislatures cannot veto the deal (that is a question yet to be answered), there is still the matter of investor-state challenges.

Last week, the Globe and Mail cautioned, “While Canada can go ahead, it might have to do so without the ability to ensure that Newfoundland will enforce all aspects of CETA within the province, such as the elimination of the MPRs [minimum processing requirements]. That theoretically would allow the EU to use investor-protection clauses to sue Canada if Newfoundland violates CETA.” Harper has threatened to make provinces who violate trade agreements to pay the fines awarded by investor-state tribunals, but that mechanism is not yet in place. And today’s election win in by Syriza raises the prospect of Greece too indicating that it would be bound by the commitments made under a ratified CETA, a right that could perhaps be argued under the Treaty of Lisbon (the governance document for the European Union).

With less than a year to go before ratification votes for CETA are expected to begin, the two largest economies in Europe – Germany and France – uniting in opposition to investor-state provisions, and mounting opposition by the people of Europe against the EU-US ‘free trade’ negotiations, CETA is looking more uncertain.

For more on the Council of Canadians campaign to defeat CETA, please click here.