from the going,-going,-gone dept
Back in March, we reported on the growing rejection of corporate sovereignty in TAFTA/TTIP, even by the German government. Since then, criticism of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which puts corporations above nations, has become even louder and more widespread. Some significant manifestations of that took place during a plenary session of the newly-elected European Parliament, where Karel De Gucht, the commissioner leading the negotiations for the EU, made a brief statement on TAFTA/TTIP. Here’s how one member of the European Parliament (MEP) responded, as reported by The Parliament magazine:
During Tuesday’s plenary session GUE/NGL deputy Helmut Scholz addressed De Gucht, saying, “You carried out a public consultation on the inclusion of an investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause which received over 115,000 responses.
“Citizens don’t want ISDS; neither in TTIP nor in the agreement with Canada,” the German deputy argued.
Many of those 115,000 responses were made using Web sites that offered a (negative) template for responding. That means the European Commission will probably try to dismiss them as bulk submissions. But others will be much harder to ignore — like this rigorous response made by more than a hundred prominent scholars from all over Europe and across the globe.
Also speaking at the plenary session was the Scottish MEP David Martin, who issued the following warning:
The Socialists were proud to be at the birth of TTIP, and we do not want to be its assassins, and I want to tell the Commission clearly now, though, that if we have to be, we will be. And that’s why we want the Commission to listen carefully to our concerns.
Martin’s words are doubly significant. First, because TTIP will not pass without the support of the Socialists, so the threat to kill the agreement is not an idle one. And secondly, because Martin played a key role in stopping ACTA two years ago, when he was the rapporteur — the European Parliament’s expert — for the brief, and advised his fellow MEPs to vote against the agreement. The video of Martin’s speech linked to above begins by showing a number of MEPs holding up placards against TTIP, and that’s not the only demonstration that took place recently. A small group of protesters disrupted the latest stakeholder meeting in Brussels, before being bundled fairly roughly from the room:
German Socialist Bernd Lange, who said procedural rules would stop [right-wing MEP] Le Pen grandstanding or using sessions for publicity, also warned that an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism should be dropped from TTIP. If it wasn’t, he said, the Parliament?s next resolution on TTIP could be negative.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the most powerful individual in the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, has also come out against ISDS in his “Political Guidelines for the next European Commission” (pdf), published earlier this week:
As Commission President, I will also be very clear that I will not sacrifice Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards or our cultural diversity on the altar of free trade. Notably, the safety of the food we eat and the protection of Europeans’ personal data will be non-negotiable for me as Commission President. Nor will I accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States is limited by special regimes for investor disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context.
Given this resistance to corporate sovereignty at the highest levels of the European Commission and European Parliament, it’s hard to see how De Gucht can continue to push for it in his negotiations with the US. After all, once TAFTA/TTIP is agreed, the European Parliament will have a yes/no vote, and will be unable to modify it. That means the only way to block ISDS is to reject the whole deal — just as it happened with ACTA for the same reason.