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European Commission president sees CETA as an “EU only” agreement

Jean-Claude Juncker is the President of the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union). He is a member of the (centre-right conservative) European People’s Party and is the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg.

The German newspaper Deutsche Welle (DW) reports, “European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU leaders on Tuesday that CETA would fall within the exclusive competence of the EU executive and therefore didn’t need to be ratified by national parliaments in the 28-nation bloc, sources in Brussels told the German news agency DPA. …Juncker argues that allowing national parliaments to have a say in the agreement will paralyze the process and put the bloc’s credibility at stake. There are estimates that it could take as many as four years for CETA to get through parliaments.”

The newspaper highlights, “However, most European Union member states view the deal as a ‘mixed’ agreement, meaning each country would have to push the deal through their parliaments.”


DW then notes, “At an EU trade ministers’ meeting in Brussels in May, a major controversy erupted over jurisdiction, with a number of ministers expressing their distrust about Brussels. ‘In Austria, we have quite strong distrust’, Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said after the meeting. ‘I think that the commercial side of CETA is a very, very good agreement and it is regrettable that everything is now being discussed in one boat and that possibly the whole boat will now be tipped.'”


The German-language business newspaper Handelsblatt reports, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she opposed Mr. Juncker’s plan to adopt the agreements directly without public votes in the parliaments or referenda in the 28 countries. The Juncker plan seemed to reflect fear that some E.U. countries would likely reject the agreements in national votes in the wake of Brexit. …Ms. Merkel … insisted that Germany must put the pacts to a vote in the Bundestag. …Vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called Mr. Juncker’s remarks ‘unbelievably foolish’…”

The Netherlands

A statement from the Dutch Government notes that Liliane Ploumen, their Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, “disagrees with the European Commission that acceptance or rejection of [CETA] is solely of the European Parliament.” She says, “The government believes that different parts of CETA fall under the competence of the Member States. CETA is therefore a mixed agreement. Also in the Council of EU trade ministers which is very widely shared opinion.”

European Parliament

IPS-Watch adds, “With CETA much broader in scope than the EU trade deal with Korea, a unilateral EU ratification is impossible, the chair of the International Trade Committee in the European Parliament, Bernd Lange (Socialists & Democrats) cautioned earlier this month. …Critics like Sven Giegold, Green Party member in the European Parliament, warned against rushing CETA by preventing the national parliaments of member states from weighing in.”


That said, the Italian minister for economic development Carlo Calenda reportedly wrote the EU trade commissioner stating, “I would like to inform you that Italy, after a technical and political assessment, is ready to consider to support the Commission on the ‘EU only’ nature of above mentioned agreement. …Italy considers the CETA a milestone agreement whose failure could have major negative consequences for the EU trade policy and for the credibility of Europe as a reliable trade partner.”

This is significant because, as analyst Glyn Moody highlights, “The national legislatures in the 28 member states could vote on CETA, but only if all EU governments demand it. If Italy refuses to join with the other countries, the European Commission would be able to send the agreement to the Council of the European Union for approval, where a ‘qualified majority’ would be enough for it to be passed.”

On Monday, European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström stated, “The European Commission will soon make a proposal for the ratification of our trade agreement with Canada.”

The next key meeting of the Council of the European Union on this matter is expected to take place on July 5.

Canadian trade minister Chrystia Freeland, noting that she had spent the weekend on the telephone with her European counterparts, stated on Monday that, “If anything [the Brexit vote] has strengthened their resolve about going forward with CETA.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still scheduled to be in Brussels on October 27 for a special Canada-EU Summit where he would formally sign the ‘free trade’ agreement.

For more on our campaign to stop CETA, please click here.