Friday

25th Sep 2020

Wallonia still refuses to buy Ceta 'cat in a bag'

  • Magnette: "The debate is about which globalisation we want" (Photo: Martin Caulier)

Wallonia was, on Friday morning (21 October), still resisting pressure to back the EU-Canada trade deal.

"Difficulties remain, especially on a symbolic and extremely important politically issue: the settlement mechanism," the Belgian region's leader Paul Magnette told the Walloon parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Magnette was addressing MPs after a meeting in Namur with Canada's international trade minister Chrystia Freedland and the former EU negotiator for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) Mauro Petriccione.

The talks are about a declaration that will be added to the agreement, to explain some of its elements, such as agriculture policy; labour; environmental or data privacy standards; or the investor settlement mechanism.

"The mechanism is not described with precision," Magnette said. "It's like buying a cat in a bag."

The parliament was still debating by early Friday afternoon, before voting to decide whether to back Ceta.

Wallonia's backing is needed to allow Belgium's federal government to approve the deal, along with other EU member states.

The parliament's speaker Andre Antoine said the talks involved "an interpretative declaration, a joint interpretative instrument, letters, bilateral declarations".

"We have the right to know the impact of each of these texts," he said.

Magnette said that the Friday morning talks went "with great courtesy and open spirit, but not much margin on the calendar."

He admitted that he had failed to convince the EU and Canada to postpone next week's summit to formally sign the deal.

He also told deputies that the question was what Wallonia should do if he could not "obtain more than a declaration that is not binding" and if no further details were given about how the settlement mechanism will work.


The direct discussions between Wallonia, a region, with a non-EU member state about an international trade agreement - normally an exclusive power of the European Commission - is a very unusual situation.

A proposal put forward by the European Commission, and meeting with ambassadors, still failed to change Magnette's stance by Thursday evening.

It also takes place in parallel to a summit in Brussels where EU leaders are discussing the bloc's trade policy.

But leaders are not part of the talks, an EU official said, "they can only facilitate them by creating a space to find a solution."

A meeting of EU ambassadors will take place after Wallonia has made its decision.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has said he has no way to act on Wallonia, according to a diplomat, who told EUobserver that Michel gave a "hopeless signal" to his colleagues.


On Friday morning he said he'd "spent the night trying to find formulas, solutions," including talking directly to the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

But was "not reassured" by the "radicalisation of the Walloon government."

Michel, a liberal, heads a coalition government that does not include Paul Magnette's party, the French-speaking socialists, that is ruling in Wallonia.

Magnette's stance is "more theater than substance," an EU official said on Friday.

The Walloon leader replied to critics, telling deputies that what they were doing was "a model of democratic work."

"The debate is about which globalisation we want," he said.

But in the Walloon parliament debate, a fellow socialist deputy said that the region's leader had "obtained more in two weeks than the federal government in two years."

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.

Wallonia hinders Canada-EU trade deal

The French speaking region of Belgium refused to authorise the federal government to sign the Canada-EU trade deal, wanting guarantees of further negotiation to sooth concerns.

Ceta failure deepens EU trade crisis

Canada said on Friday that the free-trade agreement with the EU had failed and that the bloc was "not capable" of concluding agreements.

Belgians meet for fresh Canada talks

Negotiators made headway on Tuesday but failed to break the deadlock on the EU-Canada free-trade agreement, which is still blocked by Belgium's French-speaking entities.

EU forecasts deeper recession, amid recovery funds row

The economies of France, Italy and Spain will contract more then 10-percent this year, according to the latest forecast by the EU executive, as it urges member state governments to strike a deal on the budget and recovery package.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us