Thursday

21st Nov 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 20 year's of archives. 30-day 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. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  2. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  3. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  4. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  5. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  6. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  7. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'
  8. Luxembourg: EU ought to recognise Palestine

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Column

Why the EU can't do security and defence

What if the EU can't guarantee European security? In times when US physical presence does not make up for its mental absence, the question got urgent.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  2. New EU financial instruments needed
  3. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  4. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  5. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  6. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  7. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  8. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us