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Coalition takes citizens initiative on CETA to the European Court of Justice

About 100 people held a demonstration against CETA and TTIP in front of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg earlier this week

About 100 people held a demonstration against CETA and TTIP in front of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg earlier this week

The Council of Canadians supports the demand for a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and a court action launched earlier this week by our allies on this issue.

On Monday, the Stop TTIP Coalition served papers at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg after the European Commission refused their request for an ECI on the negotiating mandate of CETA and the United States-Europe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The International Business Times reports, “Had the ECI been accepted, the commission would have been obliged to hold a hearing in the European Parliament to discuss its negotiating policy.”

That newspaper notes, “The European Commission said in September that because the negotiating process is not bound by EU law, it is thus not territorially applicable to ECIs. It is only once the negotiations are complete and the agreement is finalised that an ECI can begin.” In other words, as the EU Observer explains, “The EU executive ruled that the petition was inadmissible as a citizens’ initiative because it did not relate to law or policy that is already in force.”

But a member of the Stop TTIP Coalition says that “effectively prevents any future ECIs on international agreements”. And “opponents argue that the ECI is relevant because once a deal has been agreed, it passes to the European Parliament and national parliaments as a finished document, with votes for or against, without any chance to alter the agreement.”

It is believed that the challenge at the European Court of Justice could take two years to resolve.

If you are a European citizen, we encourage you to sign the now self-organized European Citizens Initiative against TTIP and CETA. To date it has collected 889,910 signatures.

Council of Canadians supporters may also take note that London, UK-based War on Want executive director John Hilary is a member of the Citizens’ Committee calling for an ECI on CETA and TTIP. Most recently, Hilary spoke at our annual conference in Hamilton this past October.

Meanwhile, implicitly acknowledging that negotiations on CETA are not yet complete, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that only “minor clarifications and adjustments” could be made to the agreement. Significantly, while Malmstrom asserts that the investor-state provision (that allows corporations to sue governments for public policy decisions that impact their future profits) cannot be removed from CETA because it could “unravel the agreement”, EU Observer reports, “[she] has left her options open on whether to include the clauses in TTIP.”

While estimates vary, it is believed that CETA could go to a ratification vote at the European Parliament in late 2015 or early 2016.

Whether the deal must go to the national legislatures of the 28 EU member states will be subject to another process at the European Court of Justice. The Council of the European Union (representatives from EU member states) has said it will not sign CETA if it is presented as an “EU-only” deal. They have asserted this because under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty agreements with provisions related to investment protection are a “shared competence” between the EU and its member states. The European Commission (the executive of the European Union) disagrees. Given this investor-state competency issue has also come up in the recently concluded EU-Singapore ‘free trade’ agreement, the ruling on that matter (in about a year) will set the precedent for CETA.

Further reading
European Commission rejects citizens’ initiative on CETA (September 2014 blog by Scott Harris)
European Citizens Initiative to be launched against CETA and TTIP (July 2014 blog)