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26/08/2016

Anti-TTIP demonstrations seize European capitals

Trade & Society

Anti-TTIP demonstrations seize European capitals

Anti-TTIP protesteors march in Paris, 11 October. [Collectif national unitaire stop TAFTA]

Some 400 activist groups marched all over Europe on Saturday (11 October) in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU-US trade deal crystallises opposition to a wide variety of issues – from shale gas to corporate finance.

“TTIP, we don’t want it!”

The slogan of the numerous events held on October 11 in several European cities was plain simple.

Hamburg, Berlin, Madrid, Ljubljana, Helsinki, London, Vienna and Paris – all became the theatre of protest against the EU-US free trade agreement, but also other subjects.

“This is the first massive initiative in Europe against free trade agreements. We’ve never seen such a consciousness anchored at the local level,” said Helen Cabioc’h, a French member of the Attac network.

“It is important to mobilise together at European level to expose the corporate control of these negotiations,” said Cabioc’h, who is also a member of the Stop TAFTA group, a reference to the French acronym for TTIP.

Opposition to TTIP has many faces

The opposition to TTIP has many faces however, and seems to embody a wide variety of concerns.

In France, many small demonstrations focused on opposition to shale gas, especially in the South of France, while in Berlin protesters were worried that TTIP would weaken the powers of the German regions, or Länders.

In Paris, anti-TTIP protesters marched alongside political parties, such as the Greens and the Left, but not the far-right National Front, which is also opposed to the treaty. Flags of political parties, trade unions and civil society organisations were floating above a sea of ??multi-coloured “Stop TAFTA” banners, but the demonstration failed to gather more than 2,000 people.

“We ask for a clear rejection of negotiations. We can’t have the same standards, we do not want an investor state dispute mechanism – all these projects take citizens away from decision-making and undermines the ability of the public authority to regulate,” said Helen Cabioc.

Entrenched oppositions

“The longer it goes, the more we are governed by people who are invisible and who nevertheless make the decisions. We are only left with the right to protest and we are not taken into account. I think it’s pathetic,” said Annie, an activist of the Left Front, who wants a referendum to be held on TTIP.

“We ask for transparency in these negotiations and we want a say because the European people are not informed of these negotiations,” said Brian, a socialist activist for 20 years who came with friends. He says “he is not ready to stop unless our demands are met.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a Left Front MEP, was satisfied with the mobilisation, despite the small numbers.

“I see that there is a movement of opinion which is being built because TTIP happens at the intersection of major issues that obsess European public opinion, including the issue of democracy, social and environmental concerns”, he said, adding that TTIP “crystallises protestation of a lot of things in people’s minds.”

Participation was disappointing for the Paris show. Gregory, an activist for New Deal, a political party founded in 2013, was sorry about this passivity.

“These are issues that concern everyone but people are too passive. They do not understand that it is through their mobilisation that we will make things change,” said the young man, who believes the media does not report enough about TTIP.

Different concerns depending on the country

The Paris demonstration crystallised around several issues, including opposition to shale gas and nuclear power.

“Issues were more or less significant depending on the country,” said Yannick Jadot, a Green MEP.

“Germany is concerned about the ability of the Länder to keep the power at their level. In France, the issues are GMOs, health, environment. In Britain, health is the priority. That’s why this negotiation is extremely important and potentially dangerous,” he said.

For Jadot, the demonstration came as “a sign that people absolutely want to take over this because they can see that their life, their social choices are potentially affected,” by the Treaty, he said while walking in the middle of the crowd.

The anti-TTIP mobilisation should not stop there. On 19 December, at the call of the Belgian association D1920, the collective “Stop TAFTA” wishes to block the EU summit in Brussels. Similarly, in 2015, a new large-scale action should take place in coordination with similar movements in the United States and Canada.

Background

Negotiations between the US and the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started in July 2013.

If successful, TTIP would cover more than 40% of global GDP and account for large shares of world trade and foreign direct investment. The EU-US trade relationship is already the biggest in the world. 

But anti-TTIP campaigners claim the deal will lead to a lowering of environmental, food safety and other standards. They have also criticised a lack of transparency in the talks.

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