250 protesters were arrested in Brussels on Thursday in the margins of the European Business Summit or EBS, a convention of business and political leaders.
Around 400 farmers, trade unions and citizens rallied outside the venue to protest against the so-called TTIP, a potential free trade deal currently being discussed by the EU and the US, and that featured high on EBS's agenda.
Protest groups claimed that big corporations are dictating European policy while the voices of citizens are not heard.
“Our demand is to stop the negotiation of TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is a project for the sake of multinationals and very rich people.”
“There is in the project of the Transatlantic Partnership something called ISDS (Investor to State Dispute Settlement). This means that a multinational that feels that its possible profits will be decreased by some social or ecological laws can sue a state on a private court and make the state pay very huge fines”, said Secretary General, Belgian trade union for employees Felipe Van Keirsbilck.
The EU and the US are due to resume talks on TTIP next Monday, only days before Europe holds elections. World leaders have strongly defended that removing trade barriers across the Atlantic could create millions of jobs.
But critics argue that TTIP would only decrease a government's power to protect citizens and the environment.
“A free trade area between Europe and the US will destroy jobs and social protection, environmental rights, specially in the south, the east and for the poor in Europe.” said Secretary General, Belgian trade union for employees Felipe Van Keirsbilck.
“It’s absolutely false. Mr De Gucht had a very bad slip of the tongue recently about that, he’s not even aware of those figures. It’s a video on Youtube, you can go see it. He said it would bring 0,5% of growh and when he was asked to show the figures, he couldn’t.” said Belgian representative for milk producers (Limburg) Luc Hollands
TTIP could create the largest free trade area in the world, with over 800 million people.