Commission opposes European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP

CREDIT[World Development Movement/Flickr]

UK against TTIP. [World Development Movement/Flickr]

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.

 >> Read: Backroom talks on dangerous TTIP agreement must end

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 Although the project was withdrawn by its organisers, its acceptance by the European Commission created a precedent for ECIs concerning international agreements.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.

>> Read: De Gucht rejects claims Commission misrepresented benefits of TTIP

“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.

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

Since the formation of a new, more Eurosceptic Parliament, opposition to the free-market agreement has become more intense.

If the treaty is signed, it will affect almost 40% of world GDP. The transatlantic market is already the most important in the world, accounting for €2 billion of goods and services per year.

If successful, the deal could save companies millions of euro and create thousands of new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. The average European household could save €545 per year and European GDP could increase by nearly 0.5%.

Brussels and Washington want to conclude the ambitious negotiations and seal the deal by the end of 2014.

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