Lawsuit Filed Against European Commission In EU's Highest Court For Refusing To Allow Official TAFTA/TTIP Petition
from the almost-worthless dept
The negotiating mandate for TTIP is an internal preparatory act, and not a legal act affecting EU citizens. The act affects institutions only; not EU law directly. An ECI can only be directed at a concluded act, and not already at its preparatory stage.That summary comes from a background document from 300 European civil society groups that have just filed a lawsuit against the European Commission in the EU's highest court, seeking to overturn this refusal. The document goes on to explain why the European Commission's reasoning is flawed (pdf):
An ECI proposing not to enforce a legal act is not possible. An ECI may be formulated only positively, i.e. work towards the enactment of a legal act.
Through its legal interpretation, the Commission is attempting to completely exclude its citizens from the development of international contracts: they should have no influence on their preparation. However, if international contracts are already in force, it is then almost impossible to challenge them -- it is practically impossible to terminate them.Challenging the refusal therefore has another, more general, aim:
The Commission wants to push through that an ECI can be used by citizens only to applaud decisions and schemes of EU bodies. Criticism or rejection should not be permitted, at least through official channels.
And what is more: From the justification of the rejection, it follows that an ECI on international contracts should not be possible, even if it were formulated positively ( "...the preparatory Council decisions authorising the opening of international negotiations or repealing such authorisation do not fall within the scope of the Regulation"). The citizens want to initiate a Europe-wide agreement on the determination of occupational safety standards? Impossible -- says the Commission.
If citizens are to be active through an ECI only if the EU institutions have already made all the important advance decisions, then the instrument of the European Citizens' Initiative is almost worthless.
"We are not only appealing for the sake of the Stop TTIP ECI, but also for future European Citizens’ Initiatives. When it comes to the negotiation of international treaties, the European Commission wants to exclude citizens. While they are being negotiated, people are told not to interfere and when final contracts are put on the table, it’s too late. The Commission’s legal position effectively prevents any future ECIs on international agreements."This really goes to the heart of the problem not just with TAFTA/TTIP, but also with TPP and the new TISA. The public is told that it cannot comment while the negotiations are being conducted, but that it should wait to see the final document. At that point, it is then told that there is no point in commenting, since nothing can be changed, and so the agreement must simply be accepted.
Fortunately, the groups behind the original ECI petition that was turned down have gone ahead and organized a petition quite separate from the ECI system. At the time of writing, it has attracted nearly 900,000 signatories from within the EU (the petition is limited to EU citizens, as the ECI would have been.) That makes it anti-democratic in the extreme for the European Commission to stymie an ECI on TAFTA/TTIP. The hope is that the legal action at the European Union's Court of Justice will compel the Commission to accept that fact and act on it.
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