Politico | 21 November 2016
Parliament bickers over CETA vote
by Hans von der Burchard
A tight timeline for the European Parliament’s vote on the EU-Canada deal has caused outrage among trade skeptics, who claim that critical opinions are being sidelined. Leaders of the biggest political groups confirmed Thursday that the Parliament’s International Trade Committee will vote on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement on December 5, paving the way for an approval in the plenary by mid-December.
That timeline, however, infuriated lawmakers from the Green and left-wing groups, who complained that the Parliament’s Environment and Employment Committees would not have time to debate and vote through their own opinions on CETA. Although these opinions are non-binding and unlikely to influence the outcome of the final vote, MEP Ska Keller from the Green group said that they should be heard, and that it was “outrageous” not to consider them.
Compromise intervention: A storm of angry emails prompted the chief of the Trade Committee, Socialists & Democrats lawmaker Bernd Lange, to intervene. Lange told colleagues that the ENVI and EMPL Committees had taken arrangements to speed up their work and insisted that both panels were invited to contribute their opinions on CETA, according to an email seen by POLITICO. Yet, left-wing MEP Thomas Händel, chair of the EMPL Committee, said: “That’s a bogus offer … A regular debate in the committee takes four weeks, and we should not rush.”
Händel said the Parliament should delay its vote on CETA to January. The European People Party’s Daniel Caspary countered that the schedule for December was already set more than a month ago and that the Foreign Affairs Committee easily managed to deliver its opinion on time. “They missed the deadline,” he said. “Still, I believe there is enough time for these committees to vote on CETA and express their opinion before December 5.”
Sending CETA to the Court of Justice?
The Parliament will also vote Wednesday on a motion demanding that CETA be submitted to the ECJ. Although it appears unlikely the motion will get the necessary backing, a successful resolution would delay any vote on the trade agreement for years. The Green party wants to open today’s parliamentary session in Strasbourg by demanding an additional debate on the resolution, hoping to win bigger approval.
INTA to hold extra meeting in Strasbourg
The International Trade Committee will meet on Thursday morning for a briefing by legal experts from the Parliament, Council and Commission, who will brief the lawmakers on the EU-Canada joint interpretative declaration and some 38 other declarations and statements that helped wrestle CETA over the finish line. In a letter to the Parliament’s legal service, Lange also requested answers on the question of how the EU should proceed in case one EU state wants to end the provisional application of CETA.
NGOs attack CETA on environment chapter
“Claims that CETA is a ‘gold standard’ of trade deals for the betterment of people and the planet are undermined by a toothless environment chapter that cannot be properly enforced and a tribunal system which will prioritize corporate interests,” according to a new report by the NGOs Transport & Environment and ClientEarth, published Friday.