Success Of Fringe Parties In European Parliament Raises New Obstacle To TAFTA/TTIP's Progress

from the more-problems dept

As Techdirt has been charting, the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations have already encountered far more resistance than was expected when they began last year. This has mostly centered around the controversial corporate sovereignty provisions, but there are also more general concerns about things like deregulation — for example, through a new regulatory council. As well as pushback from expected quarters — civil organizations and NGOs (pdf) — even some European governments are expressing their doubts. And following last week’s elections for the European Parliament, a new obstacle to concluding the agreement has been added: an increased number of European politicians (MEPs) that are skeptical about pan-European projects in general, and TAFTA/TTIP.

Although they hold a relatively small number of seats, they complicate the dynamics of the European Parliament, where neither the center-right group of the European People’s Party, nor the center-left group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, has an absolute majority. That means that complex and probably shifting coalitions will be needed to pass new laws in the European Parliament for the next few years.

For many areas, it’s not obvious what those coalitions will be, or what policy compromises they will require in order to coalesce. But for one — that of TAFTA/TTIP — it’s already clear that things have changed. That’s because many of the smaller euroskeptic groups have declared their outright hostility to the negotiations. Here, for example is Marine Le Pen, leader of the successful far-right party, Front National, which came first in France, gaining 24 of the 74 seats allotted to that country in the European Parliament:

“I also demand that [the French President] does three things to take Sunday’s vote into account: firstly, France halts the transatlantic treaty…”

In Italy, the Movimento Cinque Stelle came second in the polls, and won 17 out of the country’s 73 seats. A recent blog post on the subject of TAFTA/TTIP made the party’s views clear (original in Italian):

The Euro-American free exchange zone risks binding definitively the fates of Europe and the Euro with those of the US and the dollar, limiting the residual autonomy of an EU less and less integrated internally, and always more at risk of fragmenting.

[Movimento Cinque Stelle] is certain that additional liberalization [from TAFTA/TTIP] would damage [Italy] more than other countries; we therefore expect from the [Italian] government clarity and full involvement of Parliament.

Meanwhile, in Spain, a new party called “Podemos” took 5 of the country’s 54 seats. Its political program (original in Spanish, pdf) contains the following demand regarding TAFTA/TTIP:

Cessation of the negotiation process for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement.

Now, individually these parties don’t amount to much, and even collectively they are still a fringe group. But their existence will add a heightened anti-TTIP edge to the new European Parliament. Moreover, political leaders in France, Italy and Spain are likely to take their views into account in an attempt to minimize damage in local elections. Coupled with the existing groups that have declared their opposition to TAFTA/TTIP — the European Greens and the left-wing groups — this means the likelihood of TAFTA/TTIP getting an easy ride in the European Union is now greatly reduced.

That more hostile atmosphere will feed through to the European Commission — the European body responsible for negotiating TAFTA/TTIP. New Commissioners are being appointed later this year, and the incoming Trade Commissioner is likely to be much more robust in his or her defense of European interests, so as to head off criticism from the new Euroskeptic groups and national leaders made nervous by the success of these parties.

The overall affect of this is likely to be more clashes during the negotiations, and slower progress. That’s problematic for TAFTA/TTIP; if there is no deal until 2016, when the next Presidential race begins, a controversial and perhaps deeply unpopular trade agreement will be the last thing that US politicians will want to deal with. TTIP will just be put on hold until after the election — or maybe even dropped completely.

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Comments on “Success Of Fringe Parties In European Parliament Raises New Obstacle To TAFTA/TTIP's Progress”

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Anonymous Coward says:

whoever is elected as the new head of the European Commission, will have to listen to the voices of the people. if that person ignores it and goes down the ‘old guard’ route, doing whatever it can for business and ignoring the people, i think there will be serious repercussions. people are the ones that count now. to keep locking more and more away from them, making it seem like a giant organisation that is basically enslaving the population has got to stop. every time this ‘capitalization’ is tried, it fails. it’s because it isn’t any good to continually have people as slaves to corporations who care about profits only. the way drug companies are fighting to stop cheaper look alikes being made available is a real problem. how can any industry think so little of life as it does when it relies on that very thing to survive? if people cant afford the drugs needed, they will die and the companies profits die too, dont they?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You know what would be fun for the politicians for the next presidential race? Having to run without the major parties support. Then we’d actually have an interesting campaign, not just months of advertisement-clogging back and forth whining and debates that are only there to divide votes up so its not entirely obvious they’re going to ignore everything they’ve said for months and listen to lobbyists as soon as the inauguration is finished.

Anonymous Coward says:

American desperately needs new political parties. I don’t care if voting for 3rd party members is throwing my vote away. In the end, voting democrat or republican doesn’t matter, because neither party represents the people. Both parties spew lies on the campaign trail, then do the exact opposite once in office.

I’d rather throw my vote away, than vote for a deceiving liar.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

American desperately needs new political parties.

We’ve got parties by the bushel. Parties by the pound. Big ones. Small ones. Left ones, right ones.

Damn it, just vote Pirate. Yes, there’s a Pirate Party. They’re civil libertarian/centrist. Imagine how great it would be to have a party that understands the digital world running it.

Tor M says:

Being taken seriously

It’s good with greater opposition to these proposals, but I think it can also hurt to have crazy xenophobic, nationalistic and protectionistic parties on your side if you want to be taken seriously and convince the majority.

I encountered this myself when I discussed ISDN with candidates in the EU parliament election – it’s easy to be mistaken for being anti-trade (which I’m absolutely not) just because you promote fundamental democratic values.

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