13 Oct, 2015
STRASBOURG, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) — Massive demonstrations against the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) reveal deep concerns among European citizens about the economic, social, health, environmental and cultural implications of the proposed agreement.
In Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament (EP), as well as in other cities of “Old Europe” and North America, an international day of action on Saturday was a success for the protest group “Stop TTIP” which includes nearly 500 organizations. In Berlin, a demonstration managed to amass nearly 250,000 people.
Opponents of the treaty are increasingly making their voices heard, denouncing not only its content but also the opaque way in which the negotiations are being held.
They are alarmed at the consequences that some claim will arise if the treaty is ratified. The extent of the mobilization also reflects a growing divide between large swathes of the European public and the Brussels institutions.
A petition against TTIP was launched a year ago as part of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). The ECI enables at least 1 million EU citizens from at least seven EU countries to call on the European Commission (EC) to propose legislation on matters where the EU has the power to legislate.
The “Stop TTIP” has already gathered more than 3 million signatures, and last week was handed into EC headquarters in Brussels. But the commission refused to take it into consideration, pointing out that the ECI exists to put forward proposals for law, and does not cover something like trade negotiations. A challenge to this interpretation is under consideration at the European Court of Human Rights.
“The TTIP seeks to impose its demands (on Europe) to facilitate the entry of U.S. agricultural, medical, pharmaceutical and chemical products into the EU,” says campaigner Susan George. “Companies want to impose harmonization of standards between the two blocs. I believe the Volkswagen scandal shows that this is not a good idea at all!”
“If the TTIP were to be passed, it would place the U.S. at the heart of an empire. It would assume absolute geopolitical primacy and would mean the death of democracy,” exclaimed the French-American activist, author of numerous books on globalization.
Beyond what they see as a denial of democracy, TTIP opponents are also sounding the alarm about the perceived economic, social and political consequences of the trade deal. Jacques Nikonoff, associate professor at the Institute of European Studies, University of Paris 8, also doesn’t beat about the bush.
“TTIP is an economic NATO. It is the direct result of intense work carried out by U.S. and European lobbies, financed by large industrial, financial and services groups,” says the economist.
“This agreement aims to restore global leadership by the U.S. in the EU’s backyard,” the academic adds.
The organization Wikileaks is also part of the crusade against TTIP. Its founder, Julian Assange, has launched a fundraising campaign intended to offer a reward of 100,000 U.S. dollars to any whistleblower who can reveal the text of the treaty.
“Behind this treaty, personal interests are running wild as we have recently seen in the financial siege imposed on the Greek people,” says Assange. “TTIP affects the lives of every European,” he continues.
A new round of TTIP negotiations should begin at the end of October. The EC hopes to reach agreement by the beginning of next year. But it will still have to be approved by the European Parliament.
The EP has the power to reject the deal. In 2012, it threw out the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a previous deal negotiated between the EU, United States, Canada and eight other countries. This was the first time that the parliament exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement.