Civil Society Organisations Say: EU trade deals must not undermine democratic rights
In order to bypass criticism by some EU governments and parliaments, the European Commission wants to change the voting process for upcoming trade agreements with Mexico, Chile and the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and make it easier and faster for deals to be pushed through by the EU. We, civil society organisations, oppose this move as it would undermine democratic rights!
This so-called “splitting” attempt by the European Commission would mean that the trade pillars of association agreements with third countries would be adopted without requiring the consent of all EU Member States within the Council of the EU, and without requiring any kind of national ratification. This would be an assault to democracy and a severe shift away from trade decision-making rules and current practices whereby association agreements are approved unanimously by EU governments, as well as by a majority in the European Parliament and by all parliaments at the national level.
The European Commission’s move is a cynical technical way to ensure that the trade deals it negotiates enter quickly into force despite their controversy regarding deforestation, climate change, human rights violations and animal welfare. The manoeuvre would sideline opposition by some EU governments and national and/or regional parliaments.
For the EU-Mercosur agreement for example, this splitting would bypass the opposition of the parliaments in Austria, the Netherlands, Wallonia and Brussels as their approval would no longer be required. Same goes for the current government positions like the French stating that they cannot ratify the EU-Mercosur agreement in its current form because of its negative sustainability impacts – they would no longer have a veto power in the Council of the EU. It would also be against the negotiating directives given to the European Commission by the Council in 1999 and the Council Conclusions of 2018. The whole process of scrutiny of the EU-Mercosur deal was based on the common understanding that Member States would have a veto either in the Council or through the ratification at national level. The Commission cannot shortcut this process. This would create procedural pitfalls and violate the European Treaties.
We civil society organizations vehemently oppose this splitting of trade deals. Splitting the above mentioned agreements is proposed to circumvent existing concerns about the negative implications of these deals on biodiversity, climate change and human rights issues. It prioritizes economic interests above sustainability. An approval by all EU governments and national parliaments is a crucially important act of democracy that provides protection for national farmers, workers, consumers and all citizens.
We call on EU trade ministers, EU governments and national parliamentarians to stand up for the democratic scrutiny of trade agreements and to oppose the European Commission’s outrageous attempts to circumvent opposition.