Tuesday

18th Feb 2020

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Analysis

Is Belgium heading for new elections?

Belgian coalition talks have hit a wall nine months after elections, posing the possibility of a new vote, which risks making the country even harder to govern.

Five new post-Brexit MEPs to watch

Five MEPs to keep an eye on from the 27 new members who are joining the European Parliament this week, following the UK's departure from the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. Ending shell companies does not threaten privacy
  2. Net payer countries push back on EU budget plans
  3. Is Belgium heading for new elections?
  4. Budget, Zuckerberg, Pelosi and Cayman Islands This WEEK
  5. EU plan on AI: new rules, better taxes
  6. What the EU can do for South Sudan - right now
  7. The last best chance for Donbas and peace in Europe?
  8. EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us