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Brussels – Italy may be preparing to break ranks with other EU governments on the right for national parliaments to approve or reject a controversial trade deal between the EU and Canada (CETA). Greenpeace called on Italy to reconsider its position. A bid by the European Commission to bypass national parliaments is anti-democratic, said Greenpeace.
According to reports by Reuters and Austrian press agency APA on 10 June, Italian economy minister Carlo Calenda signalled support for the Commission in a letter to EU trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. But at a meeting of EU trade ministers on 13 May, Calenda reportedly joined a group of at least 18 EU countries in reiterating that the agreement would require a vote by national parliaments.
Greenpeace trade expert Juergen Knirsch said: “Italy must urgently reconsider its position. The implications of CETA are huge and democratic scrutiny must not be restricted. National parliaments should have a final say, and logically this should happen before the deal enters into force. CETA is a backdoor for multinationals to sue states outside our legal and democratic systems. It’s a threat to laws and standards that protect the environment, our health and our social rights. It must be stopped.”
In early July, the Commission is expected to table a plan for CETA approval that would exclude national parliaments. This plan would require support from a qualified majority of EU countries (representing at least 55 per cent of EU countries and 65 per cent of the EU population). If it cannot sidestep ratification by national parliaments, the Commission is keen to at least obtain a “preliminary application” of the deal ahead of the votes.
The ratification of CETA is widely seen as a test for the troubled EU-US trade agreement (TTIP), which is currently under negotiation. CETA and TTIP would hand over broad powers to multinational corporations – warned Greenpeace – in particular the right to sue governments in special arbitration panels that bypass national and EU courts. Around 42,000 companies operating in the EU are owned by US corporations with subsidiaries in Canada, through which – thanks to CETA – they would be able sue European states, even without TTIP.
In the 2011 negotiation mandate, EU governments highlighted that CETA would include “areas of mixed [EU-national] competence” on investment, including “dispute settlement”, meaning that the deal would require ratification by national parliaments. The mandate also underlines the right for governments to regulate on matters such as environmental or consumer protection.
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