Bulgaria says it will not ratify CETA

Dimitar Tzanchev, Bulgaria's representative to the EU. Photo by bnr.bg.

Bulgaria is the latest country to say it will not ratify the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

EurActiv reports, "Bulgaria and Romania will find it very difficult to ratify [CETA] because of the refusal by Ottawa to lift the visa requirement for their nationals, and have proposed the accord be postponed. Bulgaria has joined Romania, who first indicated that it would veto CETA – expressing disappointment that Ottawa had not delivered on its promise to solve the visa waiver issue – in an effort to put pressure both on Ottawa and the Commission and the EU member states."

The Bulgarian ambassador to the European Union Dimiter Tzantchev says, “The Bulgarian position is clear. We consider that the Canadian side must make proof of strong political commitment to solve the issue of lifting the visa requirement, in very clear deadlines. I cannot see how the Bulgarian citizens and the Bulgarian business could take advantage of CETA if the visa requirement would stay."

EU member state Croatia has expressed its support for Bulgaria's position.

The news report adds, "Ottawa has not delivered on its promise to solve the issue, contained in the statement of the 2014 EU-Canada summit." That statement highlighted, "We commit to ensure, as soon as possible, visa-free travel between our countries for all Canadian and EU citizens, also so that they will benefit fully from the new trade and economic opportunities that are being created between Canada and the EU."

In September 2014, the Canadian Press reported, "Canada imposed the visa on [Bulgarian and Romania] as well as the Czech Republic to stop an influx of bogus refugee claimants among ethnic Roma applicants. The Czech visa requirement ended [in 2013], but [now former] Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said at the time the Romanian and Bulgarian ones would remain because of continued concerns over human smuggling and organized criminal gangs. ...John Manley, the head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, [says] more needs to be done at European airports to block bogus refugee claimants from actually boarding flights for Canada. This could including closer tracking of travel documents used to board airliners... 'We can’t lift the visa until we find other ways to avoid this influx of refugee claimants.'"

The current plans are for CETA to be signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Union representatives at a Canada-EU summit in Brussels on October 27. The ratification process would follow from that, including both a vote at the European Parliament and votes in all 28 member state legislatures.

There is also the likelihood -- following yesterday's Council of the European Union (where national government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies) meeting -- that a proposal will go forward next month to provisionally apply CETA.

The French daily newspaper Le Monde has reported that CETA and its controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause could still be "provisionally" applied before the European Parliament vote. The newspaper reports, "If EU ministers agreed at the signing of the CETA on its provisional application, it could come into effect the following month. Such a decision would have serious implications. ...This means that even if MEPs rejected and buried CETA at the solemn vote expected in the second half of 2016, the arbitration mechanism in it, though criticized for the threat it poses to the right of governments to regulate, could still be applied for three years."

In the last year, Wallonia, Romania, the French Community of Belgium, Slovenia and Hungary have expressed their opposition to CETA.

To see a fuller list and explanation of member state opposition to CETA, please click here.