The Stop TTIP coalition, a collaboration of 320 NGOs from several EU member states opposed to the free-trade agreement being negotiated between the US and Europe, on Tuesday (9 Decenber) delivered a petition containing over a million signatures to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.
The million signatures – the number needed for a European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) to qualify for consideration – were collected in under two months, after the Commission in September rejected an earlier attempt. The petition calls on the Commission to recommend to the European Council that it withdraw the negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU should be abandoned.
Talks between the US and EU on TTIP, the principal aim of which is to remove trade barriers across economic sectors, have been in progress since July 2013. According to a Commission letter, the earlier petition could not qualify as an ECI because it “falls outside the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties”.
The Stop TTIP coalition is attempting to fight that decision in court while continuing to collect signatures. Spokesman Karl Bär said: “The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg will decide, but it will take time. We believe that the reasons for the rejection are legally wrong and our chances are good.”
The campaigners say they now also fulfil the stipulation under the rules for ECIs that require the signatures to come from at least seven different member states, with support from Germany, UK, France, Austria, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Finland. Michael Efler, also representing the coalition, added: “At the very least, we want to be treated as a regular ECI and receive an official reply by the Commission as well as a hearing in the European Parliament.”
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According to European Union legislation, the Commission can only register a citizen’s initiative within two months of receiving relevant information. To qualify, an ECI must offer clear contacts, concern an area within the jurisdiction of the Commission to submit a legislative proposal, and should not be abusive or contrary to EU values as stated in the Treaty of the European Union.
On Tuesday (9 December) an anti-TTIP demonstration was held in the European Parliament, co-organised with the left-wing parliamentary group GUE/NGL which is opposed to the trade agreements.
Gabi Zimmer, a German MEP and president of GUE/NGL in the Parliament, said: “The fight is not just about trade, it is about democracy, social rights, the environment and cultural diversity. It is about how we want to live in the future.”