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CETA ratification faces a new hurdle following the election in the Netherlands

Dutch Green Left leader Jesse Klaver.

The election results in the Netherlands yesterday will hopefully present an additional challenge to the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

The election resulted in the liberal People’s Party winning 33 seats (down 7 seats), the anti-immigration Freedom Party 19 (+4), the Christian Democrats 19 (+6), the liberal-progressive D66 19 (+7), the Green Left 14 (+12), the Socialists 14 (-1), and Labour 9 (-26) in the 150-seat legislature.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Together D66 and Green Left will now have the largest block of seats in parliament and both parties are expected to be part of a coalition government with the Liberals, led by Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister in the outgoing government. The two big establishment parties – the Liberals and the Labour Party – suffered drops in support. The Liberals lost nearly 10 seats while Labour went down by close to 30. Analysts said both parties, which had governed in a coalition since 2012, had been punished for a series of austerity measures introduced after the financial crisis that hit in 2008.”

Prior to the election, Vote Watch Europe commented, “Compared to the Labour Party, the Greens [led by Jesse Klaver] are much more opposed to free-trade agreements and this would be a major factor of instability in the executive when it comes to ratifying free-trade agreements.” But while the D66 says “people should feel the benefits” of trade deals and that “no agreements may be made on public services; water, education or health do not belong in a trade agreement.”, it favours “more economic cooperation with countries like the US and Canada” and believes that the Investment Court System provision allows the right to regulate and to create new laws.

This past January, Candace Sider, a vice-president with the Toronto-based trade services firm Livingston International, wrote in The Financial Post, “An anti-CETA petition organized by activist groups in the Netherlands has already amassed two-thirds of the signatures required to put CETA to a referendum. Such efforts have twice been successful in the Netherlands in the past. Populist movements in France, Germany (both of which have parliamentary elections this year) and Italy have the potential to stymie efforts to ratify the agreement within their own nations, as well.”

In November 2016, The Guardian reported, “Over the past year, the activists have gathered the names of almost 200,000 supporters who have pledged to petition for a referendum on CETA once the Dutch parliament has ratified it. Under Dutch law, 300,000 signatures are enough to trigger an advisory vote on any bill passed by parliament. If voters reject the bill and turnout tops 30%, the government needs the consent of parliament to proceed, possibly by offering concessions or amendments to reflect the popular will. EU deals with foreign countries need the unanimous support of its 28 member states.”

Beyond the opposition noted in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy, CETA also faces obstacles in Bulgaria and Wallonia as noted in news articles this month.

The Bulgarian news service Novinite.com has now reported, “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.”

And The Brussels Times has reported, “[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. [He] 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.'”

The Council of Canadians continues to support efforts in national and regional parliaments to derail the ratification of CETA.