Saturday

26th May 2018

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.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Opinion

Linking EU funds to 'rule of law' is innovative - but vague

Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach