Having announced its intention to try to approve The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – CETA – with Canada today, 5th July, the Commission has back tracked. Approval will now be sought from Member States’ national parliaments, though there are still caveats and concerns for campaigners.
Yesterday, the Financial Times broke a story which stated: “Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, is preparing to ditch contentious plans to fast-track approval of a trade deal with Canada, in an eleventh-hour political retreat that followed staunch criticism from some European capitals.”
This occurs just as the European Commission formally proposed to the Council of the EU the signature and conclusion of a free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.
At a press conference today (Tuesday 5th July) Trade Commissioner Malmstrom claims that the agreement is – legally – single competency. Crucially, she also stated that it is now going to also be ratified by individual Member States:
“The Commission considers this agreement legally as an EU only agreement but we are proposing it as EU mixed… final approval will need ratification in national parliaments.”
However she added, live at the event: “If Member State ministers can sign it, and it is passed by European Parliament, it enters into force provisionally. And the court on Singapore will give us guidance.”
This latter point is in reference to the European Court of Justice’s deliberations on the Singapore Agreement: in other words, pending this court decision, the process may revert to single competency, i.e. an EU only decision.
Another concern for campaigners is provisional approval. In a press statement today, the Commission maintains:
“after receiving the green light from the Council and the consent of the European Parliament it will be possible to provisionally apply the agreement…” while it also pushes for a quick signing: “the Commission makes its contribution for the deal to be signed during the next EU-Canada Summit, in October.”
However there is no guarantee as to how long the process of gaining approval in 27/28 Member States may take.
As we reported on 30th June, there has been much opposition to this fast track plan: many national governments, opposition parties, and civil society organisations within member states of the EU are furious that CETA would not go through the process of national parliament approval.
250 MEPs signed this latter opposing the Commission’s plans. It also reiterates “the position taken by a majority of national parliamentary chambers in the EU in 2014 that CETA should be of a mixed EU and Member States competence. The letter also asks the Commission and the Council to desist from provisional application of all parts of CETA for which there could be any doubt regarding the legal status.”