The institution of ECI (European Citizens’ Initiative), the only participatory process that citizens are entitled to initiate at European level, faces further devaluation risk, following the refusal of the Commission to accept the request of a coalition of more than 300 organizations to conduct an ECI on the TTIP, the Mega–trade agreement between the EU and US. After the hypocritical “yes” that in essence meant “no” to the demands of the first historically successful ECI,“right2water”, which left to all who supported it and almost 2 million people who have signed an aftertaste of frustration and anger over the attitude of the European Commission, the statement that denies the starting of an ECI for TTIP brought the organizers to the decision of filing a lawsuit.
The Stop TTIP coalition, which consists of more than 300 civil society groups from across Europe, has filed a lawsuit against the European Commission at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The lawsuit relates to a decision that was made by the Commission to block a ‘European Citizen’s Initiative’ (ECI) on the controversial EU-USA trade deal known as TTIP and a similar deal with Canada (CETA).
In September 2014 the European Commission was accused by the coalition members of ‘stifling citizens’ voices’ after it rejected a proposal to hold a ‘European Citizens’ Initiative’ against the trade deals. The Initiative, which had been launched by trade unions, social justice campaigns, human rights groups and consumer watchdogs, if successful would have forced the Commission to review its policy on the deals and to hold a hearing in the European parliament.
Nick Dearden, the director of the World Development Movement, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit said: “It’s disgraceful that the Commission is prepared to use such dirty tricks to attempt to stifle the million people across Europe who have voiced urgent concerns about TTIP and the way it is being negotiated. These people are rightly worried about the impact this far-reaching trade deal would have on vital public services, and hard-fought for legislation protecting labour rights and the environment.”
Michael Efler, a representative of the ECI’s citizens’ committee said: “We are not only appealing for the sake of the Stop TTIP ECI, but also for future European Citizens’ Initiatives. When it comes to the negotiation of international treaties, the European Commission wants to exclude citizens. While they are being negotiated, people are told not to interfere and when final contracts are put on the table, it’s too late. The Commission’s legal position effectively prevents any future ECIs on international agreements.”
Despite the rejection of the ECI, campaign groups and trade unions launched a second self-organised petition calling on the Commission to scrap the trade deal that has so far gathered more than 850,000 signatures. They are calling on the Commission to stop negotiations on TTIP and not to complete CETA, but so far the Commission denied those voices favoring instead to continue to negotiate.
Blanche Weber, a member of the ECI’s citizens committee who took part in a recent protest said: “The gap between European politics and people is to be overcome – according to the rhetoric of politicians. However, the discrepancy between this spin and actual politics is a disgrace. Brussels’ arrogance towards Europe’s citizens is unacceptable! We will continue to defend ourselves against TTIP and CETA – also for the sake of European democracy.”
Note: The TTIP and TISA, for which we have information mainly from leaks, is rumored to affect also services related to water resources, in a direction of commercialization and deregulation. It is speculated from the spirit of the agreements that these deals will make privatization (of segments of services such as sewage and assets such as dams, reservoirs and wastewater treatment) easier and open to multinationals worldwide.