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02 March, 2016

The movement against TTIP/CETA transatlantic agreements is strengthened

by George Kolempas

The pan-European movement against transatlantic agreements met at a conference this weekend in Kassel, Germany. The 500 representatives of the various initiatives of citizens and social organizations discussed the continuation of the resistance, the strategy and prospect of the movement.

As a first step, they decided to organize a big demonstration on April 23 in Hanover, on the eve of Obama's visit, where he and Merkel will open the doors of the global exhibition of industry-the largest of its kind that is being conducted for many years in this city .

Then, they will increase pressure on the negotiators of agreements with various events and decentralized local protests, before the international day against the agreements, which this year will be the 5th of November.

It was also decided to be organized a major conference of the movement at the beginning of the next year, on the formulation of alternatives to the current neoliberal policies for trade and economy. The movement of citizens Stop TTIP-CETA, aims not only to react and criticize the plans of its opponents, but also to present a complete and positive proposal to the societies on both sides of the Atlantic, on the possibilities of an alternative economy and a fair trade.

The important fact for the movement was the failure of the 12th meeting of the negotiators in Brussels to find common ground, although Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, had secured the majority through various tricks in order to proceed in a resolution for further negotiations. The pressure that has been exercised last October through large demonstrations in European capitals - 250,000 protesters participated in Berlin - and more than 3.2 million citizens' signatures, had a significant effect on this.

This gives time to the movement to confront its biggest problem. That is, to convince the northern European unions of workers to stand against the agreements. Currently, only the German unions have taken a position against them. The movement has also failed so far to exert enough pressure on the Social Democrats MEPs, so that the majority of them in European level to vote against. Only the majority of Austrian and the British Social Democrat MEPs have stand against, so far.

The intermediate political objective of the movement for 2016 is to stop the completion of CETA, because the EU is interested to close by the end of the year the agreement with Canada before TTIP with US. But this is a difficult goal, because the movement cannot focus its struggle on a specific field, as due to the secrecy of the negotiations does not know the exact plans of the negotiators.

Normally, TTIP negotiations should had ended, but it was not possible because of the resistance movement. The EU and the US will try, therefore, to complete the TTIP before the end of the US President Obama term. As said the head of the European negotiators Garcia Bercero (after the failure of the 12th meeting), the intention of the EU is to try to close the negotiations in 2016, provided that a common ground will be found. The negotiators are under pressure, not only by the movement, but also by time, because the negotiations could be dangerously extended, in case that will not be completed before the new US presidency. Therefore, it seems that the discussions will be continued in the interim period until the next meeting, so that the negotiators save some time.

By the action of the movement, the EU was forced to change position in relation to the arbitration courts provided for by the Agreement (ISDS), and in which courts, the corporations and investors will resort against states and governments, in case that these will apply laws and measures directed against their profitability. The EU no longer accepts to be private, ie decisions to be taken through negotiations between the parties lawyers' groups in restricted procedures, as proposed in the beginning. After resolution of the European Parliament last July, the EU requires trials to be public, with regular judges, transparent and with revision process.

Whether the negotiators will find a common ground, will depend on the compromise that will succeed the different interests of the US and the EU. The US is more interested in access to the European market for agri-food products, where the marketing of almost 40% of American products is not allowed (for non-labeled modified-GM-organisms, chlorination of poultry and pork, growth hormones in cattle, cloned animals, etc., which are not authorized in Europe, due to the precautionary principle). Europeans - mostly Germans - are interested for access to US public procurements, where the services in many sectors are obliged to order goods and services only from domestic companies. While German Government, is seeking to conclude the negotiations in 2016, aims at a "substantial and balanced agreement." "The quality of the agreement takes priority over speed," said the representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Since the peace movement during the "cold war", as well as the anti-nuclear and ecological one, there was no other such broad movement in Europe, especially in Germany, as the current movement against transatlantic agreements. The EU is experiencing an instability, not only because of economic or refugee crisis, but also because of the political crisis stemming from the persistence of European elites to the neoliberal recipe that govern transatlantic agreements. Nor the representative democracy is respected, as national parliaments do not know anything of those agreed behind closed doors. So, this results to the reaction of millions of citizens who decide to take the matter into their own hands. Thinking globally, they start acting locally, and demand a different policy on the international trade and the international economy, without seeking a return to the national level, since the movement is connected interstate.

This movement of citizens aspires to achieve what the opposition parties, or, the Leftist, ecological parties, have failed to achieve. That is to propose a different idea for the human communities and the European and US society. A democratic economy of solidarity and needs, with fair trade, in the context of a real democracy of citizens, not a "supposed" democracy of delegation.

Translated from the original source:

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