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NEWS: Could CETA get stuck in the EP’s concerns about the tar sands?

Catherine Bearder

The Canadian Press reports that the European Parliament passed a resolution during the Canada-European Union summit when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Brussels meeting with EU representatives to promote CETA this past Wednesday.

The European Parliament (EP) is the 736-member directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union.

While the EP cannot initiate legislation, it can reject legislation – including presumably the Canada-EU CETA. The EP can also pass non-binding, but nevertheless significant, resolutions and ask questions of the European Commission.

The media report says, “(The resolution) takes a poke at Alberta’s oil sands, expressing ‘its concern about the impact of the extraction of oil sand on the global environment due to the high level of CO2 emissions during its production process and the threat it poses for local biodiversity and the rights and health of indigenous peoples.'”

“And for good measure, the resolution notes that when it comes to the EU-Canada free-trade negotiations that are at least a year from completion, ‘no thorough impact assessment has been carried out of the social, environmental and economic effects of such a comprehensive economic trade agreement.'”

And while the European Parliament resolution welcomed the “opportunity to accelerate the pace of (CETA) negotiations,” it also reminded “the Council and Commission that since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament must approve international agreements…”

It does not appear that Harper has publicly commented on this rebuke of the tar sands by the European Parliament.

Additionally, on April 19, a British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Catherine Bearder of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), asked the European Commission (the EU’s executive body headed by Jose Manuel Barroso) two questions about CETA and the tar sands:

– “How does the Commission propose that trade relations between the EU and Canada should in no way promote or facilitate the development of this highly polluting industry?”

– “Can the Commission confirm that the EU-Canada FTA will cover trade in this type of oil and how does the Commission justify this in the light of EU environmental priorities?”

It doesn’t seem that the Commission has answered these questions yet, but we have contacted Ms. Bearder to follow-up on these issues.

And while these are only questions, and ALDE holds just 85 seats in the 736-seat EP, the European Commission – which houses the European Commissioner for Trade and the Directorate-General for Trade and is the body negotiating CETA – is accountable to the EP.

This gives some hope that there are possible avenues within the EP for us to raise our concerns about CETA.

The Canadian Press report is at http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100505/world/harper_europe.

The full text of the resolution passed on May 5 in the European Parliament is at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P7-TA-2010-0142&language=EN.

Ms. Bearder’s questions (and related background) can be read at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=WQ&reference=P-2010-2778&format=XML&language=EN.