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Parties on left and right could scupper CETA in European Parliament

Photo: The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Photo: The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The Council of Canadians has been following the European Parliament elections that will take place May 22-25 given this parliament has the power to vote against the Canada-European Union free trade agreement when it goes before them for ratification.

The Globe and Mail reports in a front-page news story today that, “A new generation of populist ‘euroskeptic’ parties – some left, some right and others … impossible to nail down on the political spectrum – is expected to take as much as one-quarter of the assembly’s 751 seats.”

The article notes:

  • “In Denmark, the People’s Party, both euroskeptic and anti-immigration, is leading the polls…”

  • “The fledgling Alternative for Germany is appealing to an electorate wondering why its euros went to bail out Greece, a country many think has no business even using the same currency.”

  • “The surging United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) … wants to yank Britain out of the 28-member union.”

  • “The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party once advocated planting land mines along Greece’s borders to keep out immigrants. It should capture less than 10 per cent of the vote…”

  • “France’s National Front … is expected to fare twice as well. Marine Le Pen, its charismatic leader, has demanded a return to the franc and a formal referendum to reconsider French membership in the EU.”

  • “[Italy’s] the Five Star Movement (M5S), stands to do well in the EU’s parliamentary election on Sunday.”

Last week, Euractiv.com reported, “Growing support for far-right parties has dominated the run-up to next week’s European Parliament elections. But a lesser-noticed theme is lurking: parties on both the right and left who want to scupper EU free trade talks. …Polls indicate populist parties opposed to free trade could win about 30% of the 751 seats in parliament, up from 21% in the outgoing parliament, according to Open Europe. Centrist parties are still expected to control 70% of the legislature, but only with the support of the Greens. …Populists are unlikely to be able to block trade deals outright but passing them is likely to be a lot trickier and will depend on centrist parties forming a grand coalition.”

The article also notes:

  • “Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far-right National Front, is expected to win the elections in France and plans to form a bloc with support from like-minded parties in the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Lithuania [says] one of her goals would be to unite with parties on the left to block the trade deal and other agreements the EU is negotiating.”

  • “From the National Front on the far right to Germany’s Die Linke on the left, populist parties say deals such as the TTIP are being negotiated in secret and pander to big companies fixated on maximising profit over protecting individuals’ rights.”

  • The leader of the UK Independence Party says he does not believe “the EU should be negotiating trade for us under any circumstances … We will not be seeking to block the EU-US trade deal, but neither will we support it.”

  • “Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) praises free trade in its 2012 manifesto, but also says no policy areas should belong to the European Parliament. On that basis it could abstain or vote against the EU’s free-trade pacts.”

Voting for the European Parliament will take place on the following days:

May 22 – Netherlands, United Kingdom

May 23 – Ireland, Czech Republic

May 24 – Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, French Overseas Territories, Czech Republic

May 25 – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain

While the chart below is speculative and could vary with respect to specific aspects of CETA, notably concerns over the investor-state provision, the current standings in the European Parliament in relation to their overall position on CETA could be outlined as follows:

Oppose – 93 votes

The Greens-European Free Alliance (58)

European United Left-Nordic Green Left (35)

Swing – 225 votes

Progressive Aliiance of Socialists and Democrats (195)

Non-Inscrits (30)

Support – 448 votes

Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe (85)

European People’s Party (274)

European Conservatives and Reformists (56)

Europe of Freedom and Democracy (33)

After the May elections, we will be further researching and updating this chart and with the new composition in the European Parliament determining with our allies the opportunities to derail the ratification of CETA in both the European Parliament and the national legislatures.