Thursday

7th Jul 2022

'Stop TTIP' activists hand EU 3mn signatures

  • 'Stop TTIP' activists handed over a petition with over 3 million signatures to the European Commission (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Activists opposing the EU’s free trade agreements with the US and Canada symbolically handed over more than 3 million signatures to European Commission officials on Wednesday (7 October), in support of an initiative to stop negotiations.

Organisers of the 'Stop TTIP' campaign said that with the help of 500 organisations, they had collected 3,263,920 signatures from 23 member states in the space of a year, three times more than the official benchmark and surpassing the seven-country quorum for a European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) to be launched. They say it is the largest number of signatures collected by an ECI so far.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

However, their voices have so far fallen on deaf ears.

In theory, since 2012, ECIs enable citizens to call on the Commission to legislate on any issues, where the EU executive has the power to propose new rules. So far, only 4 out of the 28 registered ECIs have reached the one million signature benchmark.

One year ago, the Commission refused to register the 'Stop TTIP' initiative, arguing that the Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations with the US is not “a legal act of the Union”, and is therefore exempt from the initiative.

The ratification of the agreement with Canada, where the initiative is inviting the Commission not to propose a legal act, also falls outside the scope of the possible issues that can be addressed by ECI.

“It is a legal matter, not a political assessment that was carried out,” Commission spokesperson Alexander Winterstein said on Wednesday.

He added: "What's not possible, is to ask the Commission to not do something, or not to negotiate, simply not covered by the regulation."

Michael Efler, a member of the 'Stop TTIP' citizens’ committee, said on Wednesday: “We demand at least a European Parliamentary hearing.”

“TTIP and CETA (the free trade agreement with Canada) both constitute a threat to democracy as foreign investors will have open access to courts,” Efler said, referring to the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), that would allow companies to take national governments before private courts to iron out disagreements.

Efler said changes proposed by the Commission to the ISDS system in September don’t go far enough.

“It will not solve the problem, still only investors can sue the state, and only the state can be sued,” he said.

Elfer added that 'Stop TTIP' challenged the Commission’s decision to reject the initiative in the European Court of Justice, but does not expect a ruling until 2016.

“This is a question of democracy, it is ridiculous that you can’t have citizens' voices heard on international treaties, it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Activists on Wednesday morning mounted thousands of signatures on a scale to symbolically outweigh political influence by companies on Schuman Square in the heart of Brussels' EU quarter.

An activist wearing a mask of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker held up a sign saying: “There’s no democratic choice against EU treaties”.

Later on they marched to the Commission’s nearby Berlaymont building chanting: “Stop TTIP!”

An official from Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans’ cabinet formally received the signatures, but did not promise a review of the petition.

The ECI mechanism is already under review in all EU institutions. The European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee recently adopted a report calling for a more effective and easier way to use the system to be set up by the Commission.

MEPs push for simpler rules on EU quasi-referendums

The EP calls for simplified rules for European citizens to be able to call on the Commission to propose new laws, but refrains from obliging the EU executive to follow up on the so-called European Citizens' Initiatives.

TTIP protesters warn of Trojan Horse

Anti-TTIP demonstrators do not trust European negotiators, who will engage in the 11th round of discussions next week in Miami.

Column

'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Some modest headway in recognising the unrelenting tide of discrimination and violence facing women worldwide was made at last week's largely self-congratulatory and mostly irrelevant G7 talk-fest. But no one mentioned abortion, just days after the Roe vs Wade decision.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us