Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Singapore deal needs national approval, EU lawyer says

The EU-Singapore trade deal must be concluded by member states and ratified by EU countries' parliaments, an advocate general at the EU's top court said in an opinion published on Wednesday (21 December).

The advisory opinion, if followed by a subsequent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling next year, could mean complex trade deals will not only have to be approved by EU institutions, but also by parliaments across the union, slowing down the process.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

This could affect the EU's trade policy, and a possible trade deal with the UK after Brexit.

The commission, which concluded a trade deal with Singapore in October 2014, asked the ECJ if the EU has exclusive competence to conclude the agreement.

The deal is still waiting for approval from EU governments and the European Parliament.

EU governments argued that the ratification could not be fast-tracked, as the accord includes issues where powers are shared between the EU and member states.

Advocate general Eleanor Sharpston, in her opinion, outlined specific measures in the Singapore deal that involved shared competences, including trade in transport services, public procurement for transport services, intellectual property rights, and labour and environmental standards.

Dispute settlement, mediation and transparency mechanisms should also be considered as shared competences, she wrote.

"While the Advocate General notes that difficulties may arise from a ratification process involving all of the member states alongside the EU, she considers that that cannot affect the question of who has competence to conclude the agreement," the court said in a statement.

Impacts on trade policy

Last October, the government of the Belgian region of Wallonia almost torpedoed an EU-Canada trade deal (Ceta) when it presented last minute demands for changes.

In certain international agreements the EU has exclusive competence, after the EU states task the commission with negotiating the agreement, and ratification is only needed by the EU institutions - the EU Council representing member states and the European Parliament.

In so-called "mixed agreements", where the EU and member states share competencies, all must give their consent.

The commission initially said that Ceta was an "EU-only" agreement but decided to make it a "mixed" agreement after a public outcry.

The advocate general's opinion could also affect a possible trade deal between the EU and the UK after it leaves the bloc.

It could mean that Britain faces the task of getting agreements from 27 national parliaments, and in some cases regional lawmakers, to secure wide-ranging trade agreement with the EU.

An EU commission spokesman said the EU executive saw the lawyer's opinion as an "important element contributing to the court's reflection".

But he added that "it must be clear that no definitive conclusions can be drawn until the court itself issues its final opinion".

Shira Stanton, of lobby group Greenpeace, said in a statement they were "fairly confident" that the ECJ would reach the same conclusion.

"The European Parliament and the commission should not ignore this opinion, and should wait for the court’s final decision in 2017 before taking any further decision on Ceta," she said.

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.

EU countries agree to reinforce trade defence

After two years of stalled talks, member states decided to keep the current rules on tariffs but to suspend them in case of “state-induced” distortions in raw material and energy.

EU seals Singapore trade pact

EU trade officials moved a step closer to sealing an trade pact with Singapore after negotiators for both sides presented the entire text of the agreement on Friday.

Trade deal ratification needs member states, EU court says

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the Singapore trade deal needs member states' ratification in its current form. It said that only investments do not belong under the EU's sole competence, potentially removing Brexit complications.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

Eastern Europe Matters

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic reflect on 10 years of the Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us