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Slovenia: Panel issues strong criticism of EU’s secret free trade talks

Slovenian Press Agency (STA) | 6 October 2014

Panel issues strong criticism of EU’s secret free trade talks

An NGO Umanotera-sponsored panel criticises the lack of transparency in the EU’s talks on free trade agreements with the US and Canada.

Ljubljana, 6 October (STA) — An NGO-sponsored panel was very critical in Ljubljana on Monday of the lack of transparency in the EU’s talks on free trade agreements with the US and Canada and highlighted the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism as something that absolutely needs to be scrapped from the draft agreements.

The debate, held in parliament and entitled "Trading with the Future?", focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US that is still being negotiated, and the Canada and EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which is yet to be confirmed by EU members and the European Parliament.

Marjan Hribar of the Economic Development and Technology Ministry, who is briefed on behalf of Slovenia on the developments in the talks, said that TTIP alone was expected to bring EUR 86bn or 0.5% of GDP to the EU, raising the disposable income of European families by EUR 545 each year.

Other panellists however attacked the secret nature of the talks, with the head of the education trade union SVIZ Branimir Štrukelj arguing that more transparency and inclusion of citizens must be secured.

Being singled out as a key issue in Europe as well as Slovenia is the planned ISDS mechanism, which Hribar said is meant to secure a level playing field for investors.

Foreign companies feeling they are discriminated on a market could turn directly to a special new international tribunal and thereby bypass states. Arbitration would take place behind closed doors, without public knowledge of the key arguments and with final decisions that cannot be appealed, Štrukelj and head of the Consumer Association (ZPS) Breda Kutin described the ISDS.

Thus national legislation could be circumvented and things like public education, health care, welfare mechanisms and workers’ rights put in peril, Štrukelj added.

Kutin also pointed to issues like GMOs, hormone-treated meat, chlorinated chicken, chemicals, stressing that the ISDS needs to be scrapped.

Hribar said the EU was aware of these dilemmas and would continue to debate them. Slovenia’s position is that no agreement must limit the execution of policies that are in the interest of the state, he added.

Meanwhile, protest rallies are planned across Europe on Saturday against TTIP, CETA and that Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).

In Ljubljana a rally will be organised by the "Coalition Against Secret Agreements", which includes the Protestival movement, the opposition United Left (ZL), the Pirate Party, the Solidarnost party, the Iskra and 29 October movements, NOGs Alpe Adria Green, Greenpece, Focus, and Eko krog, and the Movement for Decent Work and Welfare Society.

 source: STA