Wallonia: The real reasons to postpone CETA

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Wallonia's refusal to back the CETA deal could be golden opportunity for Europe to renew itself. [Shutterstock]

As the CETA debate continues, Jacques de Gerlache and Cédric du Monceau ask whether blocking the current deal is Europe’s last chance to avoid a fatal flight forward.

Jacques de Gerlache is a scientist and advisor to the Belgian Federal Council for Sustainable Development; Cédric du Monceau is an economist, the former DG of WWF France and the deputy mayor of Louvain-la-Neuve.

Belgium must decide whether to agree to the EU-Canada deal, but can do so only if the parliaments of federated entities Wallonia and Wallonia-Brussels agree to delegate their decision-making power about it to the federal government, which is not the case.

The deadline laid by the European Commission was rejected by Walloon Minister-President Paul Magnette despite several attempts to make CETA acceptable; however, the legal value thereof, not negotiated within the treaty framework, remains highly dubious and may face inevitable disputes in its future application.

Magnette also highlighted the “substantial difficulties” that remain, particularly in regard to the arbitration mechanism or the legal value of interpretative or related documents proposed by the Commission in implementing CETA. But there are still many other issues presented by this treaty!

The problem is that a treaty like CETA, well beyond tariffs, explores issues in agriculture, education and social and environmental areas, all negotiated in the greatest darkness by technocrats who were not really qualified to take the lead.

As pointed out by Pascal Lamy, former director of the WTO, they hire the society’s vision for future generations. Moreover, while everyone eventually agrees that continued growth in an inherently limited world is absurd, economic growth is presented as the only argument to justify this headlong rush, while several economic studies, both European and American, show that in reality such treaties will be reflected on both sides of the Atlantic by a decline of GDP and jobs.

Along with the expectation of most Europeans for more democracy, more social justice and economic equity, do the technocrats and politicians of Europe not hear the millions of citizens who have voiced their opposition to these treaties?

Did the Brexit vote or recent votes in some Eastern European countries not send a sufficiently clear message? Its citizens do not want a purely economic and financial Europe at the expense of its rich cultural diversity delivered to the commercial practices of unregulated globalisation and the legislative sovereignty of international arbitration courts.

They wish instead for a Europe that states, through the expression of a real democratic freedom, the richness of its differences and values. If Europe continues signing agreements without any other objective than hypothetical economic benefits for private interests, many other European “–xits” may become reality.

Where is the Europe of subsidiarity, so dear to former President of the Commission Jacques Delors? In this context, Wallonia’s “no” can be, if properly relayed, decisive and salutary; it would be the initiator of a deep renewal for this Europe which, unfortunately, has not finished disintegrating.

Let’s face finally the tendentious claims by not letting (y)our “representatives” ratify an agreement which, in its current form, would jeopardise the sustainable future of Europe, and therefore ours.

They were not elected to endorse blindly and uncritically what technocrats have negotiated: there are few political moments where a decision commits so much to our future.

This opinion editorial was first published by Le Soir, in French.

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