European Court tells Commission it must listen to citizens on TTIP and CETA
In 2014, the STOP TTIP campaign presented a European Citizens' Initiative against the controversial free trade agreements TTIP and CETA to the European Commission. The Commission refused to register the initiative which led the citizens' campaign to file a lawsuit.
GUE/NGL Shadow Rapporteur on TTIP, Helmut Scholz, described the judgement as “a strong signal for democracy in the EU and reinforcement of the broad public criticism of neoliberal free trade agreements.”
“The Court's decision finally recognises the participation and determination of the European citizens in the debate over TTIP and CETA. To secure this recognition legally is an important and necessary step in the context of decisions over these free trade agreements that will directly shape all of our lives and work.
“The 3.2 million signatures that the initiative collected from citizens across Europe, the mass protests and the Europe-wide criticism of these free trade and investment agreements between the EU, the United States and Canada were a clear signal to decision-makers.
“Alongside the citizens, the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament has been repeatedly demanding that European Union become more democratic and transparent about these agreements.
“Against the backdrop of the recent demands in Berlin for the continuation of the TTIP negotiations, it is important that the European Commission takes the concerns of the people seriously with regard to this agreement, rather than letting this judgement disappear into the depths of a desk drawer somewhere in the Commission.”
GUE/NGL Shadow Rapporteur on CETA, Anne-Marie Mineur, also comments:
“Today the General Court of the European Union ruled that the European Commission should not have refused the European Citizens Initiative Against TTIP, which was submitted in 2014 with 3,284,289 signatures. I welcome this ruling, as it highlights the important role of civilian initiatives in strengthening the democratic functioning of the European Union.”
“The judge was very explicit when he said that the European Commission must give citizens the freedom to express their views and participate in the democratic debate. That is exactly what the Commission has not done so far with regards to CETA and TTIP.
“The European Commission has enough instruments to act on the initiative of the European citizens, so refusing this was totally unacceptable.”
The Dutch MEP also criticised the European Commission for completely ignoring the court case:
“It is really disappointing that the Commission arrogantly continued the decision-making while the case was in process in the Court. The free trade agreement with Canada, CETA, has now been concluded by the European institutions, and the debate on TTIP is virtually silent due to the political views of the new US president. Thus, the citizens are left empty-handed, even though the Court ruled completely in their favour. The Commission should have waited for the judge's verdict, which really should have been reached sooner than the two and a half years that it actually took.”
A European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) enables the European Commission to address a specific issue. For this purpose, a total of one million valid signatures must be collected in one quarter of all member states within 12 months. In September 2014, the Commission had refused to register the 'Stop TTIP' citizens' initiative. The initiative had called on the Commission to recommend to the Council that the negotiating mandate for TTIP should be abolished and that CETA should not be concluded. In refusing to register the initiative, the Commission considered that it was outside the framework of its powers in accordance with which it can submit a proposal for a legal act of the EU.