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08 June 2016

CETA: Luxembourg parliament resolution demands legal clarification, not ready to vote on deal

Overwhelming majority back resolution, including Juncker’s own party and the government

Simon McKeagney, Editor

The Luxembourg parliament voted in support of a resolution on the EU-Canada deal CETA on Tuesday (June 8), that calls upon the government to seek legal clarification on the investor rights provisions in the agreement. It also demands that CETA is a “mixed deal” requiring ratification in Member State parliaments once these legal irregularities have been addressed. 

The vote was overwhelmingly supported by all political parties, with 58 votes in favour and only 2 abstentions from the far left. The resolution refers to the legal opinions of the European Judges Association and the German Association of Judges (Deutscher Richterbund DRB) who have both heavily criticised the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and the EU Commission’s reform proposal or Investment Court System (ICS). The DRB said in a February statement that an Investment Court System, as proposed by the Commission, had “no legal basis” and was not needed as EU and US states guarantee access to justice and grant effective protection to foreign investors. 

Legal clarification required to make decision

The vote raises the political heat on the Commission following ongoing discontent over exclusive investor provisions in EU trade agreements, voiced by many public interest groups and various political and legal representatives in recent years. Similar concerns over CETA have been raised by federal governments and regional representatives in Belgium, Austria, Greece, the Netherlands, as well as Germany, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. A growing coalition of EU mayors and local representatives have also raised their opposition to investor rights as part of TTIP and CETA. In 2014 97% of respondents demanded that investor rights provisions be removed from TTIP, in a public consultation produced by the Commission.

The Luxembourg vote may solidify support amongst some EU governments that action is required to clarify whether investor privileges in deals like CETA are compatible with European law. The resolution states that the independence and impartiality of these tribunals must be ensured. However, the legal opinions of and DRB and the European Judges Association believe that such guarentees can only be provided within the 'proven system of national and European legal protection', an issue that could be resolved by bringing CETA in front of the European Court of Justice.

Insist on a “mixed” deal 

The resolution also insists that CETA is a “mixed” agreement, including the section on investor protection, and demands that the government persists on this point at EU Council. It says that no provisional application of CETA should take place until at least after the European Parliament has voted.  

The Green/EFA Group maintain that no aspect of CETA should be voted on until all 28 Member States have ratified the agreement, however in recent days the there are rumours that the European Commission is attempting to pursue an “EU-only” agreement, with the help of some EU governments, which would block ratification at Member State level. 

Commission President Jean Claude Juncker’s own political party, the Christian Socialist Party supported the resolution in Luxembourg, and advocated strongly that CETA is a mixed deal. The question is whether the Commission can continue pursuing an EU-only deal without drawing huge backlash from Member States and the general public at large. 

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