After ten days of frantic negotiations, Belgium is set to reach an internal political agreement on CETA, a controversial trade and investment protection deal between the EU and Canada. The Belgian agreement will now require the approval of EU governments, before CETA can be submitted to a vote at the European Parliament, and then formal ratification by national parliaments.
The agreement contains one welcome development:
– Belgium has committed to ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule on the legality of the Investment Court System (ICS), a controversial investment protection system contained in CETA. If the ECJ rules that ICS is illegal – which could take up to two years – the entire CETA agreement will fall.
Greenpeace EU trade policy adviser Shira Stanton said: “CETA remains a threat for the environment and public health, and the Belgian agreement doesn’t change that. But the decision to take investment protection provisions to the European court will finally determine the legality of CETA. It’s disgraceful that it took the brave stand of two Belgian regions to achieve something that should have been done before negotiations were wrapped up. It shows the extent to which other governments are ignoring the concerns of the people they are meant to represent and stifling public debate.”
ICS, an investment protection system that bypasses the ECJ and national courts, would allow multinationals to sue governments if they believe laws or regulations are affecting their investments – even if these laws protect public health, the environment or social rights.
The Belgian agreement also holds the European Commission responsible for upholding EU law if foreign investors or Canada challenge precautionary measures to protect public health and the environment. It also underlines the right for EU countries to ban genetically modified crops.
Shira Stanton – Greenpeace EU trade policy adviser: +32 (0)477 790 415, email@example.com
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, firstname.lastname@example.org
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