Wallonia is standing up for all of Europe by throwing a spanner in CETA


25 October 2016

The members of the Parliament of Wallonia have done what we might expect all our parliamentarians to do: stand up for the best interests of the citizens they represent. They have blocked a deal that would serve the corporations who have been lobbying so hard for it, while putting our public services and environment at risk. Setting up parallel courts for the exclusive benefit of multinational investors (ICS) has no place in an international trade agreement.

The view from Brussels is that the Commission messed up. Perhaps they had been spending too much of their time talking to corporate lobbyists or perhaps they had just not anticipated that some politicians, somewhere in Europe, would assemble a majority to defend the interests of citizens. Clearly, they should have seen the Wallonian opposition coming but the iron control of the oligarchs and their bureaucratic servants is breaking down.

The EU is based multi-level democracy which means that the European Parliament where I sit also has to approve the treaty, in a vote schedule for December. So far they have managed opposition in the parliament largely by persuading the Socialists and Democrats (including our Labour MEPs led by S&D trade coordinator David Martin) to accept the argument that more trade means more jobs-and-growth. The socialists in Wallonia recognised that voters no longer believed this an are abandoning social democrats to move to extreme parties of right and left. Can we persuade more socialists that they need to learn the same lesson and resist corporate power? The smart money says that Wallonia's concerns will be addressed and that within a month Belgium will sign. So significant and public lobbying of socialist MEPs is likely to be the only way to stop CETA.

And where does this leave Brexit Britain? Despite all the hooha about sovereignty the UK government has not allowed parliamentarians to debate the treaty and would have signed us up without most of our politicians having read it. Our commentators are dismissing the Wallonian rejection as an example of dysfunction at the EU, democracy can be so inefficient and long-winded after all. The secrecy of the CETA process has been an affront to democracy. We must use the slogan 'Take back control' to ensure that similar trade deals are never written behind closed doors in Whitehall

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