In retaliation for the Socialists and Democrats’ postponement of the TTIP vote on Tuesday (9 June), the EPP succeeded in calling off the debate scheduled for the next day. The two groups blame each other for the situation. EURACTIV France reports.
The cancellation of the European Parliament’s vote on TTIP caused tumult among MEPs on Tuesday, and the drama continued the next day. Martin Schulz’s decision to delay the vote, because too many amendments had been tabled, upset the legislature’s rightist groups, who felt that the trade agreement had been taken hostage by the left. So they decided to retaliate.
At an animated meeting on Tuesday evening, the EPP decided to try and cancel the debate, knowing they could rely on the support of the notoriously pro-TTIP British members of the ECR. Wednesday morning’s vote to postpone the debate passed by a hair’s breadth: 183 votes for, to 181 against.
The cancellation of what was to be the main debate of the plenary session was a big disappointment for many MEPs.
Pascal Durand, a French Green MEP, said, “This is baffling, seeing as the Commission does not give us that much work anyway. The two important votes of the session have been cancelled.” The European Parliament’s debate on the Coferatti report, scheduled for Monday, was also called off.
The extreme left and right parties who, together with the Greens, make up the hard core of the Parliament’s anti-TTIP movement, have cried foul and accused the Social Democrats of being in bed with the British Conservatives.
Cooperation, not coalition
S&D president Gianni Pitellla said, “If we want to send a clear message on TTIP to the European Commission, we have to find a majority of MEPs that will not reject it come what may!”
The Italian MEP added that, in his opinion, the European Parliament’s “grand coalition” is an illusion. “We engage in legislative cooperation. It is not a ‘grand coalition’ like in Germany, because there is no government. Without a majority, we always have to find ways to compromise,” he said.
But the public splits within the S&D group over the transatlantic trade negotiations have not gone unnoticed or uncriticised by the right. Françoise Grossetête, a French EPP member, blamed the S&D’s troubles on its leader’s inability to hold the group together. She said, “Gianni Pitella is mediocre. He is a champion of mediocrity.”
Trouble in the EPP
“I am highly concerned about the divisions among the Socialists,” said EPP member Alain Lamassoure. But his own group is not without its problems. Polish, Spanish and French EPP members caused a crisis recently when they rebelled over the proposed immigrant quota system.
According to one S&D member, the situation among the Social Democrats is more serious. “Some members still don’t understand how the European Parliament works. They never want to hear about compromise. But without compromise, we get nothing done,” the MEP said.
Bernd Lange, the European Parliament’s TTIP rapporteur, told the press that, in his opinion, it was the Socialists’ quest for popularity that pushed them to block the TTIP vote.
“We have to decide what is more important in the end: giving the Commission our considered opinion on the subject, or gaining a few extra ‘likes’ on Facebook?”
The question remains unanswered.