11 July 2014

Juncker’s red lines on TTIP: ISDS out?

Next president of the Commission exchanges views on TTIP with Green/EFA MEPs.

Simon McKeagney, Editor

Jean Claude Juncker, next Commission President, met with the Green/EFA Group of the European Parliament this week, ahead of the vote on his position at next Tuesday’s plenary session in Strasbourg. His responses to questions regarding the EU-US trade deal could impact negotiations going forward.

When asked by Yannick Jadot about his stance on the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) he stated: 

“I don’t understand why great democracies would not have faith in the judiciary. We have courts which are able to deal with cases that are brought to them, and so I’m not really in favour of what one could call “private courts” or arbitration bodies which may sometimes reach good decisions but don’t always have to justify their decisions.”

This is the clearest indication yet that ISDS may not have the support of the next Commission President, a mechanism that has proved to be a thorn in the side for the TTIP negotiators, and a rallying call for those opposed. The Commission’s public ISDS consultation, which will close this Sunday, has had unprecedented interest, with estimates that over 90,000 comments have been received. 

On transparency, Mr. Juncker said he was a “fervent supporter of transparency” but in relation to the trade talks he said “I don’t know what the situation is”. Though he believes these talks should end in an agreement, he stated that it is important that “national parliaments, the European parliament, need to be kept a breath of all of the developments and it is important to have transparency”. He warned that the EU should not reveal its strategy for the talks but that “all documents that can be made public, should be, so we can have maximum transparency”.

Heidi Hautala MEP has argued that the current secrecy surrounding TTIP could be a case for the ECJ, as the Parliament is currently being prevented from being “fully and immediately informed of all stages of the procedure", a requirement of the EU treaties. Mr. Juncker’s comments could help to add weight to this position. 

He also stressed the importance of protecting key European standards for consumers, food and data protection, while stating his opposition to fracking. “As far as fracking is concerned, I have to say, from a personal point of view, I am against that.” On Monday the Washington Post leaked an EU negotiation text outlining plans to increase the export of US fossil fuels to Europe. The controversial move would see a US ban on crude oil exports lifted, as well as an increase of US produced fracked gas enter the EU market. Although he said he was “afraid of the consequences” of fracking, he refrained from saying he would recommend stronger regulations in the future. 

On genetically modified crops, another area under pressure from US negotiators in TTIP, Juncker expressed concerns about the current approval system. ENDs Europe reports:

Mr Juncker got a cheer from the MEPs when he expressed concerns about the EU approval system for genetically modified crops, which leaves the Commission forced to back crops when member states cannot agree a position. The whole system is not very transparent and there could be potential for reform, he said.

Following the plenary vote on Commission President next Tuesday July 15, MEPs will also have a debate on TTIP, the first since the before the European elections in May. The link to the livestream will be posted on this website on Tuesday.

You can watch the video of Wednesday's debate here.

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Ir. J. van der Harst

Signing the treaty is not in favour of European people and European states, certainly not in he long run.

David Carter

Jean Claude Juncker is entirely right with his comments on ISDS, and accepting this measure will represent a severe erosion of national sovereignty.

Florent Pirot

Are you sure that Mr. Juncker is fully against ISDS ? Note that he believes the decisions of panels are "sometimes good". His opposition seems to steem only from the lack of transparency in the mechanism.
He should be informed that fracking is not the only evil ISDS will promote : the regulation of the exploitation of tar sands in Canada, for instance, will be considerably impeded.
Currently, as unveiled by the last leaks, it is Canada that is the most concerned by the ability of States to regulate, not the EU !

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