24th May 2019


No summer break for anti-free trade opposition

  • Malmstroem has been battling to keep the TTIP negotiations on track (Photo: European Commission)

“TTIP doesn’t keep me up at night”, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem recently said of the on-going EU-US trade talks.

Yet, as the summer break approaches, negotiators on giant trade and investment pacts such as the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Transpacific Trade Partnership (TPP) ought to feel more restless.

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

Despite immense effort, the trade conundrum is nowhere close to being solved. Public opposition to secret free-trade pacts is growing by the day and has spilled over into fierce political infighting on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Brussels, TTIP’s odds of success are looking lower than ever. The negotiators’ continuous refusal to take into account public concerns about protection standards and the secrecy around the negotiations has brought crowds onto the streets.

More than 2 million people have signed a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative calling for an end to the negotiations. To the European Commission’s surprise, this opposition has spread to the European Parliament debate about its resolution on TTIP - its main input in the negotiations.

While the general pro-TTIP position of the centre-right and centre-left parties was expected to result in a green light for the controversial negotiations, the resolution has been in deadlock for weeks.

Dissenting opinions within parties have led to an embarrassing postponement of the vote, illustrating not only that there is no popular support for TTIP, but that a supporting majority in political circles is also missing.

Last week saw the European Parliament’s resolution on TTIP go through the wringer for a second time in the trade committee. On Thursday, the presidents of the parliament's groups decided the resolution should go back to plenary for debate and vote today and tomorrow.

Around Europe, pessimism about TTIP’s fate has multiplied over the last few weeks. Germany’s powerful economic minister Sigmar Gabriel recently declared that he is “far from certain that there will be an agreement in the end”, but rather “it may well be that in the end it fails”.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s foreign minister joked darkly that he is “not prepared to die for TTIP”.

Across the Atlantic, it took significant political manoeuvring for the US executive to be granted so-called fast-track authority to negotiate TTIP and TPP.

President Barack Obama went against his own party line and was accused of using dirty procedural tricks to pull this off. This comes as a serious embarrassment for the US government and free-trade supporters in the US, exposing the growing political turmoil about the harmful impacts of free-trade agreements.

If we take a step back, the picture is very clear.

Popular resistance against harmful trade agreements is reaching unprecedented levels.

The US and European publics have spotted these trade deals for the Trojan horses that they are. Now politicians are having second thoughts about opening the gates to let them inside.

Natacha Cingotti is a trade campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'

The debate about the choice of name should not boil down to a political muscle show against Hungary, which opposes the reference to Magnitsky because of its political relations with the Russian government.

Voter turnout will decide Europe's fate

European voter turnout is in deep crisis. Since the early 2000s, the share of voters in national elections has fallen to 66 percent on average, which means that the birthplace of democracy now ranks below average globally.

Can Tusk go home again?

The opposition may not be able to defeat the rulling PiS without him, but if Donald Tusk wants to go home again, he will first have to remember where he came from.

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

The ECB Song Contest?

One can't help feeling that the race to succeed Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank has taken on the flavor of the upcoming final round of the Eurovision Song Contest.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

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

Latest News

  1. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  2. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  3. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  4. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  5. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  6. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'
  7. EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'
  8. Polling booths open in UK's limbo EU election

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us