Belgian professor: What’s wrong if CETA is signed in December?

Jean-Michel de Waele [Georgi Gotev]

Belgian Professor Jean-Michel de Waele slammed the European Commission for twisting the arm of Wallonia over CETA, the  Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada.

Jean-Michel de Waele is a professor of political science and dean of the Social Sciences Faculty at the francophone Free University of Brussels (ULB).  He is close politically and professionally to Paul Magnette, the head of the government of Wallonia, although he stressed that he speaks as an analyst, not  as a spokesperson for the Wallonian Socialist leader.

De Waele spoke to’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.

Do you think a solution to the CETA agreement being hostage to the Wallonia government will be found?

A solution will be found, but probably not in the way some imagine. Wallonia has had its concerns for a very long time. The Commission did nothing to respond to them, and I cannot imagine how those could be addressed in 48 hours.

But there is work ongoing on an interpretative declaration which will be legally binding. Don’t you think this could solve the issues?

I don’t think that short-cutting the democratic institutions of an EU country would be an acceptable solution for the Walloon government. It’s amazing that so many efforts are being deployed to overturn the decision of pro-European parties, because it’s clear that the Belgian Socialist Party and the Christian Democrat Party, a member of the EPP, of which the Walloon government is composed, are pro-European forces.

It’s amazing that the Commission is trying to twist the arms of Wallonia, when it doesn’t do half of this effort vis-à-vis Hungary and Poland, where European values are trampled. This is not a way in which confidence in the EU can be restored.

If the Commission finds a legal trick to circumvent the position of Wallonia, this would further erode confidence in Europe in a country and a region which has traditionally been very pro-European.

Martin Schulz, the European Parliament President, and a prominent social democrat, has made strong appeals in favour of signing CETA as it is. Does it mean that the Wallonian Socialists are much more radical, much more to the left?

Certainly. But given the state in which German democracy is, having swallowed all the snakes and having become the spokespersons of a policy of austerity which has contributed to the European crisis and to Brexit – that even US President Barack Obama condemned – my answer is yes.

Mr. Schulz is a protagonist of the European crisis, he is part of the problem. Mr. Schulz systematically makes calls to everyone to align with the established order. We should not be surprised.

If Wallonia scuppered CETA, would this raise the profile of Paul Magnette as a new type of European leftist leader?

No, I don’t think the aim of Wallonia is to scupper CETA. To improve CETA and to have its say is not to scupper CETA.

Negotiations took many months, not always transparently, and the world is not going to collapse if this agreement is signed in November or December, instead of the next couple of days.

Regarding Paul Magnette’s possible political strategy, well, I’m sure he has a political strategy, but certainly not a will to become the leader of a radical left. Let me remind you that Paul Magnette is the author of important publications on European affairs, and that he has insisted on the need for coherence between statements and deeds.

Subscribe to our newsletters


Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.