WEEKLY COMMENT 27-10-2016
By Barry Edwards
The big fuss about the Walloon government rejection of the Canadian trade deal CETA that we discussed last week has now been resolved although the exact terms of the deal that was made are not yet released, at least, I cannot find any reference to it. The whole saga has instigated an outpouring of debate about trade deals and the future of the EU. Jorgo Riss is director of Greenpeace’s European unit and he has written an article about the ramifications of the CETA deal from his perspective, if you click on the link below you read it (one page only);
The following is an extract from his article;
“EU credibility is dependent on the approval of CETA, they argue. But if they were honestly concerned about the future of European cooperation, it would become evident that, if anything, the opposite is true.
EU credibility depends not on the adoption of CETA, but on fulfilling the commitments to the peoples of Europe laid out in the Treaty on the European Union. Principles of democracy, the rule of law, the promotion of economic and social progress, sustainable development, and environmental protection are all key to EU credibility. Promoting them should be the EU’s duty and is probably also the best antidote to Euroscepticism, populism and extremism.
As the treaty says, economic and social progress should go hand in hand, and can’t be separated from environmental protection. The success of EU trade policy will depend on transparent negotiations and a genuine involvement of civil society, with a clear goal to promote the public interest. Trade agreements should be an opportunity to shape progressive global standards, not a chance to strip away public protection and the hard-won rights that underpin Europe’s prosperity.
The EU must stop CETA because it threatens the rule of law by allowing multinationals to sue governments over measures that protect people and the environment, but may impede trade.”
In another article on the EuroActiv.com site Jacques de Gerlache and Cédric du Monceau, both EU member government advisors also commented;
“Along with the expectation of most Europeans for more democracy, more social justice and economic equity, do the technocrats and politicians of Europe not hear the millions of citizens who have voiced their opposition to these treaties?
Did the Brexit vote or recent votes in some Eastern European countries not send a sufficiently clear message? Its citizens do not want a purely economic and financial Europe at the expense of its rich cultural diversity delivered to the commercial practices of unregulated globalisation and the legislative sovereignty of international arbitration courts.
They wish instead for a Europe that states, through the expression of a real democratic freedom, the richness of its differences and values. If Europe continues signing agreements without any other objective than hypothetical economic benefits for private interests, many other European “–xits” may become reality.
Where is the Europe of subsidiarity, so dear to former President of the Commission Jacques Delors? In this context, Wallonia’s “no” can be, if properly relayed, decisive and salutary; it would be the initiator of a deep renewal for this Europe which, unfortunately, has not finished disintegrating.
Let’s face finally the tendentious claims by not letting (y)our “representatives” ratify an agreement which, in its current form, would jeopardise the sustainable future of Europe, and therefore ours.
They were not elected to endorse blindly and uncritically what technocrats have negotiated: there are few political moments where a decision commits so much to our future.”
Looking at this from a business perspective, you would say these writers are just moaning for the sake of it but it is clear they are highlighting the real vision that many people have of the EU throughout the whole union. Words like ‘globalisation’ and ‘internationalisation’ are used by commentators to describe the business world which translates into big companies controlling nations for many ordinary folk. They believe that democracy is giving way to the large corporations who have the power to dictate to elected governments the rules by which we all conduct our lives.
This is not what they voted for when the EU was created and they have never agreed to the progressive federal ambitions of the European Commission. Trade deals are for them another cycle in the continuous undemocratic decision making by the EU bureaucrats and they have had enough. The Wallonians have expressed their displeasure and it has hit a nerve amongst many EU groups and citizens who have held this view for some time.
I believe we are seeing a real expression of resentment by the people to the way the EU is evolving and that message is beginning to impress on the bureaucrats who have tended to ignore public opinion in the past. The reasons the British voted to leave the EU are now having a real impact on the EU leaders who have elections forthcoming and if they are going to have any chance of being returned to power, they must reflect the wishes of the people in the way they propose to develop the EU in the future.
The success of the EU is important to the UK both as a trading partner and diplomatically and that can only happen if the member governments are in sync with the people expressing their wishes and interests. Change is happening and we all could be surprised at how quickly this is interpreted into actual policy in the near future. The Wallonians may have done us all a big favour.
That’s all for this week, more observations next week.