The EU’s citizens’ initiative is a con-job

Commission rejects registration of Stop-TTIP citizens' initiative

September 18th, 2014

Claims by the European Commission and other pro Lisbon Treaty campaigners that the new EU Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) would give citizens power and influence over the EU, have been exposed as utterly spurious. Last week the Commission denied a request from the Stop-TTIP organization to have their initiative registered as an ECI. Critics of the ECI have always claimed that, when it came to the test, the Commission would reject ECI’s that it considered damaging to the EU integration project. To ensure that such controversial initiatives would be stopped in their tracks, the ECI regulation provides the Commission with broad subjective powers of interpretation that it can use to reject any proposed ECI’s.

While the EUD supports trading relationships between EU countries and non-EU countries, it insists that all such trade negotiations between the EU and third countries be conducted in an open and transparent manner. Those affected by EU trade policy should not be excluded from the process, meaning that a broad public debate must take place and public support must underpin all trade agreements. It is not acceptable that the EU and third countries negotiate and debate in secret without any involvement of other stakeholders and then presents a final treaty text for ratification in national parliaments and the EU-parliament on a ‘take it or leave it basis’. Legislating by way of secretly negotiated international treaties increases the sense of distrust and resentment many citizens already feel towards the EU. The EUD wishes to take this opportunity to remind the public that an independent country, such as Iceland, is able to bilaterally negotiate trade agreements that suit their specific needs, no member of the EU (customs union) has this flexibility.

The Stop-TTIP organization campaigns for a repeal of the negotiating mandate for the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement and the proposed EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Their petition reads:

We invite the European Commission to recommend to the Council to repeal the negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and not to conclude the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

In justifying its rejection of the proposed ECI the Commission writes:

According to Article 11(4) TEU, a citizens’ initiative can concern “matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties”. In the area of international agreements, such legal acts are the Council decisions on signature and conclusion of the agreement. Hence, as a matter of principle, the signature and conclusion of an international agreement with a given subject and content may be requested by a citizens’ initiative. Conversely, the preparatory Council decisions authorising the opening of international negotiations or repealing such authorisation do not fall within the scope of the Regulation. Therefore, the Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations is not a “a legal act of the Union” and the Commission recommendation for such a Council decision does not constitute an “appropriate proposal” within the meaning of Article 11(4) TEU and Article 2, point 1 and Article 4 (2)(b)of the Regulation.

Insofar as this part of your proposed citizens’ initiative could also be understood, in essence, as inviting the Commission not to submit proposals for Council decisions on the signature and / or conclusion of TTIP, it should be pointed out that pursuant to Article 2, point 1 of the Regulation a citizens’ initiative may only invite the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit an appropriate proposal for a legal act considered necessary by the citizens for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. Conversely, a citizens’ initiative inviting the Commission not to propose a legal act is not admissible under that provision. The same holds true for a citizens’ initiative inviting the Commission to propose a “decision” not to adopt a legal act, since such decision would not deploy any autonomous legal effect beyond the fact of the legal act at issue not being adopted.

A legal opinion issued on behalf of the Stop-TTIP campaign by Professor Dr. jur . Bernhard Kempen, University of Cologne, regarding the admissibility of an ECI against TTIP concluded the following:

  1. 1. An ECI with the aim of preventing TTIP and CETA is legally admissible.
  2. 2. Due to their international thematic relationship, it is admissible to cover both agreements in a single ECI
  3. 3. Of the two versions submitted, preference should be given to Version 2, based on the current status of negotiations on CETA.
  4. 4. As an alternative to the submitted draft texts, it should suffice for the ECI to be formulated in such a way that only the aim of preventing the conclusion of the international agreements is made clear.

We also note that there is not sufficient support for TTIP in the US Congress. Leading Senators and members of the House of Representatives from both parties have already torpedoed President Obama’s attempts at circumventing constitutional checks on the ratification of international treaties. Similar attempts could be made in Europe when the ratification process starts. Therefore the EUD urges citizens to monitor how their national and EU parliamentarians act on this matter and calls on them to hold these elected representatives to account by demanding that they reject this undemocratic, untransparent and authoritarian approach to treaty negotiations. A fait accompli negotiated in secret and presented to national parliaments for ratification without broad public debate is not acceptable under any circumstances in any so called democratic regime.

"If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No we will say 'we continue'." Jean Claude Juncker, leading up to the 2005 French referendum on the EU Constitution.
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