Thousands protest in Brussels against EU-US trade ageement
Protestors gathered in front of an empty EU summit building on Friday (19 December) to demonstrate against the EU-US free trade pact talks.
A planned two-day summit in Brussels ended early on Thursday evening with EU leaders pledging to have the deal, which is set to remove trade tariffs and harmonise standards with the US, signed by the end of 2015.
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But Sebastian Franco, one of the protest organisers at Alliance D-1920, a social movement opposed to the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), told this website their anti-free trade message had not been lost.
“It is the first time the summit finished so early, I wouldn’t say it was just because of us, but it was also because of us,” he said.
TTIP is stirring general controversy, with critics saying it will have a negative impact on a whole range of issues from the environment to energy and food.
The lack of transparency behind the deal-making with the Americans and its broader implications are among the long list of issues that worry the citizens across Europe, said Franco.
“The governments and lobbies are afraid, they feel resistance is growing, and we think they can lose this battle,” he said.
According to Franco, more than 3,000 people showed up.
Farmers had blocked off streets with around thirty tractors and set bails of hay alight as demonstrators ‘encircled’ the summit building in a symbolic display of resistance.
Effigies of EU leaders like Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel were burned. One banner, stretched across the side of the future seat of the European Council, had "Merry Christmas and happy austerity” written across it.
By noon, a heavy down pour of rain had dispersed the last remaining crowds with police and riot officers standing nearby and behind waist-high metal barricades.
The main demonstration was held without incident although two separate groups of protestors stormed the buildings of lobbying umbrella organisations FoodDrink Europe and BusinessEurope.
“What we want to achieve is to stop the negotiations and have transparency,” said one representative, who did not want to be named, from a Belgian-based pro-democracy organisation, La maison du peuple d'Europe.
Campaigners on Thursday had also obtained over one million signatures on a petition calling for EU-US trade talks to be halted and an EU trade deal with Canada to be scrapped.
The citizens' initiative requires a formal response from the European Commission if it reaches one million signatures.