Sunday

16th Jun 2019

'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

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

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.

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds
  2. EU ups US imports in beef deal
  3. Unicef: UK among 'least family-friendly' in Europe
  4. Czech PM: No joint 'V4' candidate in commission race
  5. Johnson tops first round to replace May, three eliminated
  6. Bratislava will host new European Labour Authority
  7. Juncker cautions against further climate goals
  8. Study: Counterfeit medicine is a 'growing threat' in EU

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  2. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  3. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  4. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  5. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue
  6. Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC
  7. Europe's oil supplies 'at risk' after tanker attacks
  8. EU paths fork for Albania and North Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us