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Thousands protest US-EU ‘free trade’ deal in Brussels

Photo by John Hilary

More than 3,000 people rallied against the proposed United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) ‘free trade’ deal in Brussels on Friday. The protest, organized by the Alliance D19-20, surrounded a summit of EU leaders with people and farm tractors.

On Friday morning, our ally War on Want executive director John Hilary tweeted, “Brussels wakes up to demonstrations against #TTIP, #austerity. Buildings occupied, protests ongoing.” He then tweeted, “Brussels under siege as demos against #TTIP, #austerity take hold. HQ of BusinessEurope now occupied.” He also noted, “EU institutions in Brussels now surrounded by anti #TTIP, #austerity protests. HQ of FoodDrinkEurope also occupied.” BusinessEurope is a corporate lobby group (like the Canadian Council of Chief Executives), FoodDrinkEurope is a confederation of the food industry.

EurActiv.com reports, “During [Thursday] night, convoys of tractors from Walloon neighbourhoods reached the centre of Brussels. The European quarters around the flagship monuments of the Council and the Commission were completely blocked [Friday] morning, both by police and by tractors.” And Deutsche Welle reports, “The demonstrations brought together farmers, trade unionists and environmentalists, who burned bales of hay and an effigy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, long considered the driving force behind Europe’s policy of reducing social programs in order to curb government debt. …The police cordoned off the whole of Brussels’ EU quarter, causing early morning chaos in one of the city’s busiest districts.”

Photo by John Hilary

That latter article adds, “The D19-20 Alliance … represents not only Belgian organizations but French, Dutch, and German ones as well. …[It] denounces austerity as a means by which the government makes workers pay for the financial crisis and allows for a roll-back of important social programs forged over generations, like free medical care. The Alliance is worried that the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership … will increase these inequalities and give American businesses too much power over European governments to the detriment of their citizens.”

Our European allies are also aware of the related danger of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). In November, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Scott Harris highlighted, “CETA will act as a Trojan Horse in Europe for US multinational corporations with subsidiaries in Canada, which will be able to use their ‘substantial business interests’ to launch challenges against EU regulations.” Earlier this month, Harris was in Brussels meeting with European allies about our collaborative fight against CETA and TTIP.

EU leaders ended their summit on Thursday night – a day early – to avoid the protest, but prior to adjourning they reaffirmed their commitment to signing TTIP by the end of 2015.