European Commission Faces Court Challenge Over Trade Talks
Alliance to launch self-organised Citizens’ Initiative on TTIP and CETA
Stop TTIP, an alliance counting over 240 organisations from across Europe, today announced that it would be appealing to the European Court of Justice against the European Commission’s rejection of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) on TTIP and CETA – the trade talks being held in secret with the USA and Canada, respectively.
The organisers also announced that they would be continuing with the collection of signatures for an autonomous ECI, even without its recognition by the European Commission.
Michael Efler, member of the ECI citizens’ committee, said: “We believe the legal arguments used by the European Commission to reject the citizens’ initiative are wrong. Contrary to the Commission’s claims, the initiative should be able to challenge the negotiating mandate for TTIP and CETA.”
“International trade agreements should not be negotiated behind closed doors without public intervention,” said Efler. “This is the principle we will be fighting for at the European Court of Justice. It is unacceptable that, after secret negotiations over which we have no influence, the European Parliament and the public are presented with a fait accompli.”
Karl Baer, member of the ECI steering committee, said: “We will not be ending our protest just because the European Commission wants to gain time with an unfounded and politically motivated rejection. Democracy arises through social intervention and participation in the political process; it is not something to be granted or denied by Brussels. That is why we will be launching a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative. The European Commission is trying to ignore us; it will not succeed.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission’s new president, recently announced that he would campaign for greater transparency and democratic participation during the trade negotiations. “It is now up to Mr Juncker to match his words with action and reverse the decision of the outgoing Commission,” said Baer. “Instead of operating in secret and withdrawing from the democratic process, the European Commission must finally accept that the people of Europe do not want these free trade agreements with new powers for investors and a lowering of our standards.”
Democracy is not granted from above, it is made from below!
The European Commission tried to deny us our democratic right to speak out against TTIP and CETA via a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). Last week, they refused to register our ECI, offering inconsistent explanations (see press release). Democracy is not granted from above, it is made from below! We reject the Commission’s attempt to silence us and will carry out our European Citizens’ Initiative anyway, without approval from Brussels. We are currently preparing an online signature gathering tool as well as paper signature forms and will start collection in early October. At the same time, we will challenge the Commission in court by appealing to the European Court of Justice.
In the past couple of weeks our campaign has gathered support from over 240 civil society organisations in 21 EU member states. It is somewhat ironic that the European Commission, which often complains about the “lack of a European public”, is trying to stop this truly European movement in its tracks. We will continue to speak out against the Commission’s total lack of transparency in the negotiations and favouring of corporate interests over the common good. We will stay very public and very European in our opposition to TTIP and CETA!
The rejection of the ECI is not the first time that the Commission has attempted to silence voices against TTIP and CETA. Firstly, it negotiates the agreements in such secrecy that not even our elected representatives know what is happening. The Commission hopes that if we don’t know what is happening, we can’t criticise it. Unfortunately for them, a number of leaks confirmed our worst fears. The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) led to a public outcry, so much so that the Commission was forced to start a public consultation. The long list of questions posed in the online consultation were formulated in an intentionally complicated way but nevertheless 150,000 people participated. Isn’t this a great manifestation of democracy in action? The Commission didn’t think so. They called it “an attack”. Then we announced the start of an ECI against TTIP and CETA – to the great frustration of the Commission. Millions of citizens speaking out against these traded agreements? What a dire prospect for the Commission and a threat to their plans. So they tried to pull the plug by rejecting the registration of our ECI.
Welcome to Europe’s first ever self-organised ECI
We will carry out our ECI as intended, ignoring the rejection. We have the legitimate right to do so. We as citizens have a matter to bring up with EU institutions, so over the next couple of month, we will carry out a genuine European Citizens’ Initiative, an ‘ECI from the bottom up‘. By standing strong, the citizens of Europe can together stop TTIP and CETA. Join us!