In July, a group of people set off to do a hard thing, but an important thing. They wanted to collect 1 million signatures.
Once attained, those 1 million signatures would force the European Commission to discuss an immediate halt to the ongoing trade talks between the EU and U.S. These talks are known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. For short, they are called the TTIP.
Having already achieved nearly three-quarters of the signatures through the European Commission’s official process — the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) — we should be celebrating.
We aren’t celebrating. Here’s why:
On 11 September, just days before the ECI was to launch publicly by 230 organisations in 21 countries, the Commission announced that it was rejecting the ECI altogether. It claimed that the call to stop the TTIP “falls outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union”. The Commission argued that we could use an ECI to request an agreement, but we can’t use an ECI to stop something we didn’t ask for and don’t want.
We are not waiting for permission to try to stop this very bad trade deal.
As Karl Baer on the Stop TTIP ECI steering committee aptly points out, “Democracy arises through social intervention and participation in the political process; it is not something to be granted or denied by Brussels.”
So the ECI has re-formed and will carry on regardless of the Commission’s disapproval. In fact, not only are we collecting signatures to halt the TTIP talks, we are appealing to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the Commission’s rejection of the official ECI.
It’s a wide-ranging mess that threatens to lower the standards that it took us generations to secure in employment and social policy, environmental protection, food safety, privacy, consumers’ rights, the deregulation of public services like water and everything else swept into these secretive discussions. It controversially includes a so-called investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that would enable companies to side-step our courts if we change our laws to protect ourselves. It can’t be allowed to happen.
Instead of a nice calm petition, the Commission now faces a legal challenge in the ECJ and an investigation by the European Ombudsman into transparency in the TTIP negotiations. Already an independent legal opinion issued by Professor Dr. Bernhard Kempen, University of Cologne, says that the decision to reject the ECI was wrong.
All of this lit the touchpaper of public anger over not just the TTIP but the very basis of EU trade policy.
For those keeping score:
We need a new approach to trade and investment policy in the EU that puts people and genuine ecological sustainability at the very heart of discussions. To get that, we need to stop the TTIP.
Please sign our ECI now to help stop the TTIP. If there wasn’t so much at stake, the Commission wouldn’t be trying to stop us.
This story was originally published on Common Dreams.