Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Wallonia leader rejects EU deadline on Canada

  • Elements of Ceta are "the absolute limit of the respect for democracy", Wallonia's leader Magnette said (Photo: Martin Caulier)

Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region will not approve the EU-Canada trade deal before a Friday deadline set by the EU, regional minister-president Paul Magnette has said.

"We won't be able to sign before Friday," he told Belgian public radio RTBF on Wednesday morning (19 October), adding that he realised this would have political consequences.

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

Magnette, a centre-left politician, said that the demand was "not reasonable" and denounced a "pressure agenda".

Last week Wallonia's parliament adopted a resolution opposing the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta).

Magnette said the agreement was now "unravelling" and that a few months were needed to "reopen the negotiation".

"An interpretative declaration is not enough," he said, pouring cold water on EU effort to address Wallonia's concerns through an annexe document to the treaty.

EU trade ministers and the European Commission at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday gave the Belgian region until the end of this week's EU summit, on Friday, to give its consent to the deal.



Belgium's federal government needs the consent of all the country's regional entities to sign international trade deals, and the EU needs unanimity of its 28 member states.

The formal signing ceremony of Ceta is scheduled for next week at a EU-Canada summit in Brussels.

But Magnette said on Wednesday that it would be "reasonable" to postpone the summit without a date.

"It's better to avoid what would appear as a confrontation," he said.

He said Canadians were "our friends" and that Wallonia's government has nothing against trade deals, but that it could "not accept everything".

The Walloon leader said that Ceta was a "real threat to social and environmental standards and sustainable development" even if progress had been made in recent days. 


He said that under the agreement, for example, government would be exposed to pay compensation to multinationals if they adopt new standards which are not planned by the deal

"This is the absolute limit of the respect for democracy," he said.

He said he had obtained the right for government to attack companies that do not respect social and environmental standards and to avoid having to pay compensations

But he said his region still had other concerns.

He said that the settlement court included in the agreement was shocking because it would bypass the normal judiciary.



Way forward

He said Wallonia wanted the EU to benefit from a clause that would allow Canada to protect itself against massive European agricultural imports.

He also pointed out that another clause that would allow US firms established in Canada to benefit from free-trade with the EU was not clear and protective of EU's interests enough.

Magnette said that dialogue with the European Commission, which negotiates international trade deals on behalf of the member states, was "useful and polite".

But he pointed out that until earlier this month the EU executive did not hear Wallonia's concerns and only said that Walloons did not understand the deal.

The Walloon leader will be under strong pressure in the coming days, with EU leaders expecting to be able to sign Ceta next week. The Belgian prime minister and foreign minister, Charles Michel and Didier Reynders, are themselves supporters of the deal.

On Tuesday, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said "the credibility of the EU to conduct trade deals" was at stake.

Ceta will be discussed at the summit and on the margins, a top EU official said on Tuesday.

He said that the objective would be to "find a way forward together will Belgium, a solution satisfactory to everyone, including to Wallonia".

He added that the EU could not imagine yet what would happen if Wallonia still refused to budge.

Canada woos sceptical EU left on trade deal

Future of CETA largely hangs on the support of Europe’s social democrats. Canada’s trade minister has been touring hotspots of scepticism to convince them that the deal is progressive.

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.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  2. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  3. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border
  4. MEPs rally ahead of vote for gig-economy workers' rights
  5. Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think
  6. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  7. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  8. EU lobby register still riddled with errors

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us