Democracy is no spectator sport
Phenomenal response to initiative against TTIP
Stephanie Roth, European Campaign Manager at Stop TTIP, on the phenomenal response to self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) against TTIP and CETA.
When an institution which such profound power and impact on people’s lives as the European Commission denies Europe’s citizens to have their say on a hugely controversial issue, then we should get worried.
And that’s just what happened. On 11th September the European Commission refused to register a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) to stop TTIP and CETA, the two deeply unpopular free trade agreements currently negotiated by the EU with the US and Canada respectively. In plain words, the Commission denied the use of the only instrument that we the citizens have to directly influence European policy making.
But if the European Commission hoped to derail the European movement against TTIP and CETA by rejecting the petition they were wrong.
The movement to stop these trade deals has been forming over the last few months and is now an alliance of 240 organisations from all over Europe, which lodged the application for the petition.
True to the motto “democracy is not granted from above but is made from below”, the ECI team is continuing with the ECI, just as planned, now proudly calling it Europe’s first ever ‘self-organised ECI’.
The response has been phenomenal. In just four days we have raised well over a third of the required million signatories. We hope to reach half a million during tomorrow's international day of action against TTIP.
For an ECI to be successful, one million signatures must be gathered within one year. Additionally, in seven EU states a specific minimum of supporters must be achieved. If successful, the European Commission must deal with the subject of the ECI and it must organise a hearing in the European Parliament.
Apparently, the Commission was rather worried about the prospect of having to deal with one million or more citizens demanding a stop to TTIP and CETA, which the Commission has been negotiating behind closed doors for several years. They rejected the petition on shaky legal grounds which we are going to challenge in the European Court of Justice.
A threat to democracy
TTIP and CETA threaten to undermine democracy, the rule of law, environmental standards and consumer rights. At the same time, big corporations will gain the power to sue states in unofficial courts when they feel that a new law lowers their profit expectations, a process known as Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS).
Under similar investment provisions, Canadian company Gabriel Resources is threatening to sue the Romanian government for up to $4 billion - or almost 2% of Romania's gross domestic product - if its murky Rosia Montana gold mine isn’t approved. This is "for multiple breaches of investment treaties”, which translates into social, environmental and cultural concerns. Not that they are minor: at full production, the mine would use 13-15 million kilograms of deadly-toxic cyanide per year during the 16-year mine life, involuntarily relocate the population and destroy a unique heritage dating from Roman and pre-Roman times.
Philip Morris the tobacco giant is suing the Australian government for billions of dollars for taking measures to reduce the rate of smoking in Australia. Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing Germany for 3.7 billion Euros over its decision not to use nuclear energy any more and French Veolia is challenging the Egyptian government over an increase in the minimum wage.
With TTIP and CETA such court cases will dramatically increase at the expense of the rule of law and democratic decision-making.
'Harmonization' = Deregulation
The mega deals are also regarded as a great corporate assault that will undercut labour, food and environmental safety. Under TTIP, standards in practically all areas of life are meant to be ‘harmonized’. That may sound rather harmless, but how do you ‘harmonize’ US food standards where chlorinated chickens, hormone treated beef and GMOs are accepted, with much stronger EU food standards where they are not? Is it more likely that the US will increase their standards or is it more likely that the EU will have to lower theirs?
Visit www.stop-ttip.org to sign the petition and download signature sheets for off-line collection.
There are a number of actions against TTIP around the country tomorrow. Read more >
Discover more about TTIP >
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