The European Parliament has postponed a vote and debate on the transatlantic trade negotiations that were due to take place today (10 June). MEPs say this decision reflects the shortcomings of the “grand coalition” between the centre-right European People’s Party and the centre-left Socialists & Democrats groups in the Parliament. EURACTIV France reports.
The European Parliament was supposed to vote on a non-binding resolution on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Wednesday 10 June.
But the institution’s president, Martin Schulz, decided otherwise. He called off the vote on Tuesday, on the pretext that the number of amendments (200) was excessive.
The Lange report, which was adopted by the Committee on International Trade (INTA) on 28 May, has been heavily modified as members from all the political groups try to reflect growing public opposition to the trade deal.
Public opposition played down by political groups
“At this stage, positions for or against TTIP are nothing but dogmatic prejudice. We must not think in terms of for and against,” said Gianni Pitella, the President of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group in Parliament.
This view is shared by Franck Proust, a French member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group, who said that accusing TTIP of certain wrongs when it has yet to be implemented was “a doctrinal position”.
Thought the two MEPs appear to agree on the issue, they face major dissent from within their respective groups.
The S&D group is following the lead of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, but has faced rebellion every step of the way, especially on the question of dispute settlement.
The EPP and S&D groups have both submitted amendments on the subject, which foresee the replacement of commercial tribunals with public tribunals when disputes arise.
Franck Proust believes the two groups are aligned on the issue. “Mathias Fekl [French secretary of state for foreign trade] has echoed our position on the subject. We are now completely in agreement.”
Radical opponents reject all arbitration
But for many MEPs within the S&D group, and in the Greens and the radical left, this is not an acceptable solution.
“We do not see eye to eye. This is not a viable solution. Creating a new tribunal will not solve the problem of inappropriate nominations. This is simply a rehash of Malmström’s previous proposals,” said Belgian Green MEP Philippe Lamberts.
TTIP’s opponents put the postponement of the vote down to the growing mobilisation against the treaty.
The postponement of this routine vote, followed by the cancellation of the debate, has exposed deep cracks in the “grand coalition” between the EPP and S&D, which is notionally in control of the European Parliament.
French Green MEP Yannick Jadot said, “President Schulz has abused his position to delay a vote that he fears, and that is dividing the two main groups, the EPP and the S&D.”
The S&D rapporteur on the resolution, Bernd Lange, said he would nonetheless “continue talks with all the political groups to try and gain the broadest possible support for our position”.
TTIP has provided the European Parliament’s groups with leverage for their political positions.
“We need to exist, to be heard this parliament needs to demonstrate and to bang its fists on the table over such an important subject,” said Pervenche Berès, the head of the French socialist delegation. In a similar vein, Franck Proust told his delegation to “submit 50 amendments to the report” in order to prove how influential they can be.
Increasingly regular opposition
A year on from the European elections, many socialists believe the coalition has failed. Relations have soured with the bloc’s left wing, who toed the line for the election of the new European Commission, but have been uneasy partners ever since.
“We simply do not agree on macro-economic questions. We see this with Greece, with TTIP, with the Juncker Plan,” said S&D MEP Guillaume Balas.
Consensus has become the exception, rather than the rule. The coalition was unable to stop rebellions on conflict minerals, the Noichl report on gender equality or the Commission’s work programme.
The coalition’s rebels would clearly prefer to form alliances with more closely aligned parties. Guillaume Balas said “We get on more easily with the Greens and the radical left. It would be easier to form an alliance with them in order to reach compromises that work”.