Sunday

30th Apr 2017

Belgium gets Friday deadline on Canada trade

  • Antwerp, in Belgium, is one of Europe's busiest portrs (Photo: imo.org)

Belgium has until Friday to agree to the Canada-EU trade deal (Ceta), as it remained the key obstacle to the signing of the accord after trade ministers on Tuesday (18 October) failed to sign off the agreement.

Belgium's French-speaking region, Wallonia, has blocked the federal government to agree the accord, due to be signed with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau in Brussels next Thursday.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Greenpeace activists held anti-Ceta protest in Luxembourg, where ministers met (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

"All but one member state is on board on substance," Slovak economy minister Peter Ziga, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said after the meeting.

Wallonia's reluctance to agree to the deal has become the major sticking point in concluding the deal, putting the EU's credibility on trade issues on the line.

"It's up to the EU summit to settle the final reservations," Ziga said.

"The good news is that we are moving toward that goal [signing the agreement]. It's not a sprint, and not a marathon, something in between," added Ziga about the talks with Belgium.

Belgian isolation

"Twenty seven and a half member states accepted the agreement," an EU official quipped in the margins of the meeting.

An EU official said Belgium's foreign minister Didier Reynders told his colleagues during the talks that he needed the next few days to fix the problem.

Wallonia's concerns would most likely be addressed in a joint declaration, a text clarifying the trade deal, or in other informal protocols, according to officials. Officials also said Reynders did not go into details at the meeting how he thinks Wallonia's concerns could be accommodated, however.

The commission is working with the Belgian and Walloon authorities to find a solution, which then would be politically endorsed by EU leaders at the summit, and agreed by the EU Council in a fast-track procedure.

"Reynders sounded reasonably optimistic," said a source, adding that the 27 fellow ministers were also optimistic the deal can be signed before prime minster Trudeau gets on the airplane next week.

However annoyed EU officials and national diplomats might be with Belgium's last-minute jitters, an official said no member state had threatened Belgium during the discussions.

"I can't imagine that the final stumbling block would be Belgium," said Ziga, and praised the country as one of the EU's founding members.

Several EU countries - including Spain, Poland, and the Czech Republic - pointed out that the bloc's credibility was at risk.

"It is about the credibility of the EU to conduct trade deals," EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem also told press after the meeting. Ziga hinted that if the deal failed the question arose whether it was worth having a common trade policy.

The difficult birth of Ceta also raised concerns that a future trade deal between the EU and the UK would be equally hard to reach.

"If we can't make a deal with Canada, I don't think we can make it with the UK," the trade commissioner said.

Last-minute solutions

Bulgaria and Romania also maintain reservations on the Canada accord, as they would like to see written guarantees that their citizens would be able to travel visa-free to Canada. According to an EU diplomat, that issue should be solved in the next few days and the two countries will not block the deal.

Bulgaria and Romania said at Tuesday's council that they were content with Ceta, another EU official said.

According to the official, the two countries reached an oral agreement with Canada on the visa issue, but they would not formally lift their reservations until they get written guarantees.

German concerns have also been addressed in a unilateral declaration on Cetan after the constitutional court in Germany gave the go ahead for the deal last week.

The German reservations were based on the court's ruling.

The Karlsruhe court said that the provisional application of the Ceta can only apply within the competencies of the EU, and that Germany can unilaterally terminate the provisional application.

Officials said the goal is to tie up the deal before EU leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit on Thursday afternoon.

"God knows what happens tomorrow," said the source.

For now, a draft conclusion of the summit, seen by this website, says in brackets: "It welcomes the decision to sign and provisionally apply the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and calls for the European Parliament promptly to give its consent."

Interview

Canada trade deal is 'wrong enemy'

The EU's trade deal with Canada is coming under pressure from critics and member states, but the EP rapporteur argues supporters of protectionism are picking the wrong enemy.

EU and Wallonia still stuck on Canada accord

While EU ambassadors gave their tacit apporoval for a new text based on wallonia's requests, the French-speaking Belgian region again rejected to sign off the Canada-EU trade deal.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

Investigation

MEPs oppose EU agency to prevent Dieselgate II

The European Parliament said on Tuesday that there should be more EU oversight on how cars are approved, but stopped short of calling for an independent EU agency.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  2. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  3. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  4. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  6. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  7. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  10. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  11. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  12. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved