The Court found that the provisions of the agreement relating to non-direct foreign investment and those relating to dispute settlement between investors and states do not fall within the exclusive competence of the European Union, so that the agreement cannot, as it stands, be concluded without the participation of the member states.
The opinion also has implications for other new comprehensive bilateral trade agreements between the EU and other countries.
GUE/NGL Shadow Rapporteur on the EU-Singapore free trade agreement, Anne-Marie Mineur, who was present in Luxembourg for the announcement today, comments: “I am pleased with the opinion that the European Court of Justice presented today. It confirms that this far-reaching type of trade agreement needs to be ratified by the member states, and it also confirms that the European Commission have overplayed their competences.”
“This is the second time that the European Commission has been reprimanded for not listening to the citizens of the member states, following the ruling of the General Court of the European Union last week which told the European Commission that it could not simply ignore the 3.5 million signatures under the Stop TTIP European Citizens’ Initiative,” the Dutch MEP continues.
“I hope the Commission will listen to these criticisms and give more credence to the voice of citizens. However, I hear rumours that instead the European Commission will adapt their free trade agreements so that they do not need the consent of the national and regional parliaments. That would do nothing to reinforce the belief in the democratic character of the Commission.”
GUE/NGL Coordinator on the Euopean Parliament's International Trade Committee, Helmut Scholz, explains: “In practice, this means that the national parliaments have a veto right against such agreements.”
“The evaluation of the European Court of Justice is an important step in ending the humiliating statements from the European institutions towards parliaments in member states like Belgium, telling them they must fulfil their duties to the EU by complying with these agreements.
“There should no longer be any agreement on investor protection negotiated without broad parliamentary participation and the participation of the citizens.
In contrast to the court's finding in favour of national parliaments, Scholz also points out that “the Court's report also provides a remarkable clarification on the legal competences at the European level: every aspect of a trade agreement which can affect the development of the whole European Union is now under the sole competence of the European institutions: the Council of the member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission.
In response, the German MEP suggests some homework for the democracies in the member states: “We should follow the example of Denmark and require a vote in member states' parliaments on an imperative mandate for their ministers each time they are going to vote in Council on behalf of their countries.”