After weeks of internal disagreement in Belgium, the european Union and Canada have formally signed Sunday in Brussels their free trade agreement (Ceta). “Patience !”, has launched the president of the european Commission Jean-Claude Juncker the Prime minister of canada Justin Trudeau to his arrival shortly after noon at the headquarters of the Council of the EU. “The difficult things are difficult, but we were able to succeed,” said Justin Trudeau. “Well played !”, he also said to the president of the european Council Donald Tusk.
outside the building, a few dozen demonstrators chanted slogans hostile to the Aacc and brandished placards – “Citizens before the multinationals” – the sound of drums. They have also launched the red paint. The canadian Prime minister, which was delayed an hour and a half due to a technical problem of the aircraft from Ottawa, was waiting since many days that the Europeans settle their bisbilles so that the agreement can be signed. An umpteenth european crisis, in an EU already rocked by the Brexit, the crisis of migrants and terrorism.
The Aacc, which aims mainly to remove tariffs with a country friend, representing 1.6% of its imports and 2.0% of its exports, has faced these last days in a runaway policy and a dramatization of the issues surrounding his signature. This umpteenth european crisis is part of Belgium, more precisely of one of its regions, French-speaking Wallonia (3.6 million people), of which the Parliament has refused to approve the Aacc, as provided for in the belgian Constitution. In the absence of consensus belgian, it was not possible to have a european agreement.
The credibility of the european Union has been launched. If “Europe is unable to sign a commercial agreement progressive with a country like Canada, with which Europe think-does it do business in the years to come ?”, has tancé Justin Trudeau. Become the voice of the opponents to the Aacc, the Walloons feared the consequences of the treaty on agriculture. They were largely concerned with the possibility for a multinational company to attack a State that would adopt a public policy contrary to its interests.
No question of letting a court of private arbitrate these disputes, have repeated the anti-Ceta walloons, demanding guarantees, without which they do not grant them carte blanche to belgian federal government. The slowness of the “discussions” led to the cancellation of a summit with Canada expected on Thursday in Brussels. The EU has made low-profile : not a statement, not a tweet that would have run the risk of disrupting these laborious negotiations belgo-belgians. “We respect the democratic process”, have repeated the question of whether its spokesman.
a long process
The compromise agreement belgian eventually fell on Thursday mid-day, a few pages that will be amended to the treaty. A “Aacc fix (…) is more just than the old Aacc”, targué the head of the walloon government, the socialist Paul Magnette. No change, in fact : statements reiterating the provisions already included in the treaty, advances in the mode of appointment of judges of the arbitration court, and the announcement by the Belgium, she will ask the Court of justice of the EU (CJEU) to verify the compliance of that court with the european law. “Nothing is easy in Belgium, but few things are impossible,” summary Saturday, with irony, the belgian foreign minister, Didier Reynders, relieved.
as Soon as the agreement “intrabelge” concluded, the EU decided to beat the iron while it is still warm. It took a few hours Friday to get the green light of the other 27 member States, and then decide on the heels of organizing a new summit as soon as Sunday. After the signing ceremony, the treaty must be ratified by the Parliaments in europe and canada before entering the application in a partial and provisional.
The EU must now face another mountain : its necessary ratification by the various national and regional Parliaments of the countries of the EU so that it becomes final. A task that, in the light of psychodrama belgian, is not going to be easy. The promotion campaign has already started : the Aacc is “an agreement modern and progressive, opening the door to new opportunities, while protecting important interests,” argued Robert Fico, the Slovak Prime minister (whose country ensures the rotating presidency of the EU). “In addition, it has the potential to define the way forward for future trade agreements”, he noted, while another trans-atlantic agreement, more ambitious but even more contested, the TTIP (or Tafta), negotiated with the United States. Another puzzle…