French and German socialists divided by CETA vote

A voting machine in the European Parliament [Blogactiv]

The European Parliament’s vote on ratifying CETA, the EU-Canada trade agreement, revealed the deep divisions among socialists across the EU, in particular in the “engine of Europe” – France and Germany.

MEPs backed CETA yesterday (15 February) with 408 MEPs in favour and 254 against; 33 abstained. CETA will now face the hurdle of being ratified by the 28 member states. The ratification process varies from country to country, with some requesting approval in national parliaments.

MEPs approve EU-Canada trade deal

After a heated debate in Parliament on Wednesday (15 February), MEPs have given the green light to the EU-Canada trade agreement, clearing the way for the deal to come into force provisionally this spring.

VoteWatch.eu, the specialised website monitoring how MEPs vote, reveals astonishing divisions in the socialist camp.

The centre-right EPP was largely united, with only five out of 206 MEPs voting against (Pascal Arimont and Claude Rodin from Belgium; Andrzey Grzyb, Krzysztof Hetman and Jaroslaw Kalinowski from Poland). Seven of its members abstained, a majority of which were French MEPs (Michele Alliot-Marie, Arnaud Danjean, Michel Dantin, Angelique Delahaye, Brice Hortefeux and Nadine Morano).

But in the centre-left S&D group, out of a total of 174 MEPs who voted, 66 voted against CETA – and against the instructions of their party group – and 13 abstained.

All French socialists against

More interestingly, all 13 French socialist MEPs voted against, while German MEPs were largely in favour, with only five out of 24 German SPD MEPs voting against (Evelyne Gebhardt, Dietmar Koster, Maria Noichl, Joachim Schuster and Jutta Steinruch). Three abstained.

The country map by VoteWatch also shows big divisions among the socialists of the other 28 member states.

All Austrian, Belgian, Czech and Polish socialists voted against, while the lone Irish, Latvian and Slovenian socialist MEPs also registered negative votes.

Conversely, all Croatian, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Romanian and the only Estonian and Luxembourgish MEPs voted in favour.

The other countries showed a mixed bag of results. Greek, Maltese, Portuguese, Slovak and Spanish socialists were predominantly pro-CETA, while UK’s Labour Party MEPs were quite divided.

Scandal with the PES leader

In leader of the Party of European Socialists Sergei Stanishev’s Bulgaria, a scandal erupted after the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party Kornelia Ninova said her force will brand all Bulgarian MEPs who supported CETA as traitors.

Ninova says CETA will put at disadvantage the Bulgarian producers and flow the country with products containing GMOs.

Her criticism was aimed at the centre-right MEPs from the Gerb party of Boyko Borissov, and of the ALDE-affiliated DPS party, all of whom supported CETA. But suddenly it appeared that Stanishev backed CETA too.

This prompted the PES leader to make statements that he had made a mistake during the vote, and to announce that he had requested his vote to be corrected as “against”. VoteWatch still lists him as having supported CETA.

Bulgaria will hold snap general elections on 26 March and the the CETA vote remains hot news galvanising the socialists, who hope to take over from Borissov’s GERB. Ninova said that in case her party wins the elections, she would make sure the Bulgarian parliament will reject CETA’s ratification.