Thursday

27th Apr 2017

Wallonia hinders Canada-EU trade deal

  • The Canada trade deal is supposed to be signed on 27 October (Photo: Artem Popov)

Belgium's Wallonia region will block the federal government from signing the Canada-EU free trade accord, after a vote in the regional assembly on Friday (14 October) against approving the agreement.

"I will not give powers to the federal government and Belgium will not sign Ceta [the agreement] on 18 October," Wallonian prime minister Paul Magnette said on Friday.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But, Magnette said the vote should not be seen as being against trade or Canada.

He said that the so-called joint interpretative declaration, that clarifies the deal, does not give enough guarantees, as it does not have the same legal weight as the accord itself.

The French-speaking region has concerns about the deal's social and environmental impact, which could be addressed in a legally binding declaration.

The assembly voted 46 votes in favour, 16 against and one abstention.

Belgium's federal government needs the approval of all the country's six assemblies to sign the deal.

Wallonia's stalling is a diplomatic blow to the EU and its trade policy, as talks with US on a free trade deal also grind to a halt.

It also raises questions about future trade talks with the UK, as it exits the bloc.

EU trade ministers are due to gather in Luxembourg next Tuesday to approve the Canada deal, so it can be signed with prime minister Justin Trudeau in Brussels on 27 October.

Magnette on Friday urged the Belgian government to renegotiate the interpretative text, saying four or five EU member states are reluctant about the deal.

"We need to return to the negotiating table," he said. "We are less isolated than people think," he added.

Magnette is expected to travel to Paris later on Friday to discuss the issue with French president Francois Hollande.

"I am worried about the future of Europe, why add another crisis?," AFP quoted Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders, who still hopes to approve the deal, at Tuesday's talks with EU ministers.

The EU Commission on Friday did not want to comment on the vote in Wallonia.

"The process has begun, it is underway, we are following the debate in member states," a spokesman said.

The Slovak presidency of the EU said later on Friday that it is not for the presidency to comment the internal legislative process in Belgium.

"We have full confidence that in the end, Belgium will be on board, able to support the package at the trade ministers meeting next Tuesday. The Council meeting is set to take place as planned," they said in a statement.

"We are convinced that the overall deal is good and balanced," it added.

Belgian nail-biter threatens EU free trade

Officials have launched an 11th-hour mission to stop Wallonia, a Belgian region, from blocking a major deal with Canada, amid a broader rethink on EU free trade.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  2. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act
  3. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  4. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  6. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  7. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  8. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  9. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  10. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  11. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?