The European Citizens’ Initiative STOP TTIP has been dismissed by the European Commission. Its organisers now want to take the decision to the European courts.
Announced in July, the European citizens’ initiative STOP TTIP was officially supposed to begin at the end of September, but it will come to nothing: the Commission has blocked the project, planned by ATTAC in Germany, and supported by the Greens.
The European citizens’ initiative (ECI) provides a platform for citizens to present a legislative proposal to the Commission, if they collect over a million signatures. The ECI on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was greatly anticipated, although the negotiations on trade agreements with Canada and the USA are in full swing.
In its response to the NGOs, the Commission stated that “the proposed citizens’ initiative falls outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union.”
The Commission explained that “as a matter of principle, the signature and conclusion of an international agreement with a given subject and content may be requested by a citizens’ initiative. Conversely, the preparatory Council decisions authorising the opening of international negotiations or repealing such authorisation do not fall within the scope of the Regulation.”
A political decision?
“Of course the Commission did not take this decision alone. But the rejection of this initiative is above all a political decision,” asserts Yannick Jadot, a Green MEP. He is amazed by the lack of political vision shown by the European executive on the subject.
“The ECI gives the citizens a voice, allows them to express their fears. We should not limit this space, which is already so narrow”, he argues.
The initiative’s organisers are recalling the example of an ECI on the free movement agreement between Switzerland and the EU, known as “Swissout”, which was accepted in 2013. Although the project was withdrawn by its organisers, its acceptance by the European Commission created a precedent for ECIs concerning international agreements.
“The European Parliament has evolved, and the subject of TTIP has become sufficiently important for the Commission to give it serious attention. This decision demonstrates that the Commission is afraid that European citizens will take control of these issues, illustrated by the contempt they have shown for the 170,000 comments on the subject, already collected during public consultation,” Yannick Jadot adds. The MEP believes that the ECI needs reformulating, but that it remains an indispensable vehicle of expression for citizens.
“The Commission is only listening to lobbyists, rather than the citizens,” STOP TTIP representative Michael Efler commented. But he is not prepared to leave the matter there. “Now, the battle is really starting,” he says. Efler plans to challenge the European Commission’s decision in the European courts.