The mainstream parties in the European Parliament have rejected by a large majority a motion initiated by 89 MEPs to submit the EU-Canada trade agreement – CETA – to the Court of Justice to check its compatibility with EU law.
Such a move would have likely delayed the coming into force of the trade agreement for months, if not years. It was rejected by 419 MEPs, while 258 MEPs supported the move, and 22 abstained. Now trade MEPs are planning to vote for CETA on 5 December 2016, and hope to send it for ratification to the Plenary before Christmas.
Now trade MEPs are planning to vote for CETA on 5 December 2016, and hope to send it for ratification to the Plenary before Christmas.
“Our legal experts said that CETA has no effect on our legal framework, on the competencies of the EU or on our constitutional rights. This agreement provides an answer to our concerns regarding globalisation without causing problems for democracy”, said rapporteur Daniel Caspary (EPP, DE).
At issue is the investment court system (ICS), the new system to tackle disputes between investors and host states included in CETA. The region of Wallonia has asked Belgium to request an opinion from the Court of Justice on the compatibility of ICS with EU treaties. Belgium has not yet moved.
The legal service of the European Parliament considers the ICS system compatible with EU law.
However, civil society groups have criticised the rejection of the motion.
“A legal check of CETA is indispensable for eliminating uncertainty on the conformity of the EU-Canada deal with the EU treaties. Legislators need to make sure that an unsound legal system doesn’t have major implications for consumer protection and public policy measures down the line,” said Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).
“Consumer organisations had hoped that the European Parliament would assume its responsibility to ensure that trade deals are properly vetted before entering into force. Without this legal check by the EU’s highest judges we will soon find ourselves in the same situation again, as the EU is about to propose the establishment of a multilateral investment court system,” Goyens added.
Cecile Toubeau, director of better trade and regulation at the green lobby group Transport & Environment, said: “A majority of MEPs have squandered this unique opportunity to involve the EU’s highest court now and avoid a legal stand-off further down the road once the so-called Investment Court System is up and running.”