Background 16.03.2021

12 EU Member States can still stop CETA

The trade agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA) is not a done deal. Four years after its vote in the European Parliament, twelve EU countries have still not ratified the agreement, France, Netherlands and Germany among them. If one of the countries informs the European Commission, that they do not ratify CETA, the agreement could still be stopped. 

In Belgium, four parliaments have to vote on CETA: three regional ones and the federal parliament. The latter, together with the Flanders regional parliament, have already approved CETA. Two regional parliament votes on CETA are pending: the Wallonia and the Brussels regional parliaments.

French-speaking socialist and Belgian green parties are opposed to CETA although there are divergences in the socialist party. They both rule in the Brussels region but no vote is planned yet in the Brussels regional parliament.

In the parliament of Wallonia, the majority coalition is made of the socialist and green parties and the republicans. The latter are in favour of CETA. As the issue is divisive inside the coalition, no vote is planned yet.

In Belgium, opposition is wide and runs from farmers to consumer groups to non-profit health insurers. Several aspects of CETA are contested such as its impact on Belgian agriculture, its parallel justice system, its impact on health services, its environmental consequences, etc. Unfortunately, not much attention has been raised on the lack of transparency in CETA and the undemocratic role of committees.

Bulgaria nearly approved CETA in 2020 but the second and final vote for ratification in the National Assembly was postponed due to public opposition. The socialist party as well as citizens groups and the second largest trade union in the country are opposed to CETA.

The future of CETA ratification will depend on the results of the upcoming elections on 4th April 2021 and on whether parties which are currently opposed to CETA will maintain their opposition when in power.
Civil society has organised against CETA mostly around genetically modified food and CETA parallel justice system. 

In Cyprus, the House of Representatives voted on CETA. On 31st July 2020, it rejected CETA (37 votes against, 18 votes in favour) but the government has not notified the EU. Instead, it is trying to reschedule a new vote at a later date, most probably after the May 2021 elections.

The rejection came as a surprise to the broad anti-CETA coalition in Cyprus, made of trade unions, farmers unions and environmental organisations.

One divisive issue, but not the sole one, has been the recognition of Halloumi cheese. Legislators would like it to be recognised in the EU and in Canada, for Cypriot farmers to be the sole legal producers of the cheese. This recognition though is entrenched by conflicts between producers on the Turkish and Cypriot sides of the island. Furthermore, concerns were raised around the agricultural impact of CETA, its parallel justice system, genetically modified food, etc. 

In France, two parliaments have to approve CETA. The National Assembly voted in favour of CETA in July 2018 but the Senate has not put CETA on its agenda yet. The Republican party is the largest party in the Senate and it is opposed to CETA due to farming issues (cheaper and “lower standards” food imports).

French President Macron commissioned an independent academic study on CETA in 2017. Its conclusions were very critical of the deal. The report underlined that CETA could weaken the precautionary principle and it could lead to a race to the bottom in food standards. The study also raised concerns over Canadian farmers use of pesticides, genetically modified food, growth hormones and antibiotics. Little has changed since the publication of the study but the French government has promised increased transparency on CETA committees.

Many civil society organisations are against CETA in France: farmers' unions, trade unions, environmental organisations, etc. foodwatch is a main actor in this coalition which has raised concerns mostly around CETA's impact on climate change and food standards.

In Germany, two parliaments have to vote on CETA: the Bundestag and the Bundesrat (representing regions). The September 2021 federal elections will change the composition of the Bundestag as well as the German government. CETA ratification process will depend on the score of the green party, against CETA, and whether its position will remain the same once in power.

There are currently still two legal cases on CETA pending in the German Federal Constitutional Court, including one initiated by foodwatch and allies. They raise concerns over CETA committees, as well as its parallel justice system, the precautionary principle and aspects of democratic policy. The Bundestag is waiting for the judgement, expected in the first half of 2021, before its vote on CETA.
Civil society has been widely and strongly organised in opposition to CETA in Germany, both at the national and regional levels. foodwatch is an active member in the coalition working group on CETA.

In Greece, CETA has to be ratified by the Greek parliament. The new conservative Greek government, in power since January 2020, is in favour of CETA. Nonetheless, no mention of CETA has been made in the public debate so far.

There is a small civil society coalition against CETA in Greece. Their opposition has centred around CETA parallel justice system, farming issues, food standards and the protection of geographical indicators.   

In Hungary, the national parliament will vote on CETA. For the moment, the vote is not on the parliament agenda. The majority of members of parliament, as well as the current governing party, Fidesz, are pro CETA. The next parliamentary elections will be held in 2022.

Opposition by civil society and small Hungarian parties (the Greens for instance) is centred around the impact of CETA on environmental protection and food safety.

In Ireland, the Dáil Éireann will be the only parliament to vote on CETA. The Canada-EU trade deal was on its agenda at the end of 2020 but the vote has been postponed due to divisions in the Green Party, which was against CETA at the time of the European parliament vote, and criticisms from opposition parties and civil society. The Green party is a member of the government coalition, together with two centre-right parties.

In the parliament, left parties such as Sinn Féin are opposed to CETA. Civil society organisations opposed to the trade deal include trade and environmental groups as well as the Irish trade union confederation and some parts of farmers' unions. Opposition centres around CETA parallel justice system, its impact on labour and on the agricultural sector, especially on dairy farmers. 

In Italy, two chambers of the parliament have to approve CETA: the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. In 2017, ratification started in the Senate’s foreign affairs committee but it was halted. Since then, no new attempts were made to start the ratification process and recent governmental declarations suggest that CETA will not be presented to parliament anytime soon.

At the moment, there is not a clear majority against CETA in either chamber of the parliament and the new Italian government position on CETA is not known. There is however an intergroup of parliamentarians from both chambers opposing the agreement. The group represents all parties except the far right party Fratelli and members of the group sit in key parliamentary committees.

In Italy, opposition to CETA is focused on food and farming issues (geographical indicators, pesticides, glyphosate) as well as, but to a lesser extent, industrial concerns.

Many civil society groups are opposed to CETA such as trade unions (CGIL, the major trade union confederation), consumer groups, environmental organisations, etc. and Coldiretti, the largest agricultural federation in Italy.

In Poland, two chambers of the parliament have to approve CETA: the upper house (the Senate) and the lower house (the Sejm). For the moment, no dates have been announced for CETA ratification.

Most members of the ruling PiS party, as well as the largest opposition party PO, are in favour of CETA. Opposition centres around CETA parallel justice system, the impact of CETA on agriculture and food standards, especially genetically modified food. The debate has not touched upon CETA lack of transparency or the role of committees.

In Slovenia, two chambers of the parliament have to approve CETA: the National Assembly and the second chamber. For the moment, no dates have been announced for CETA ratification.

The majority of parties in the Slovenian National Assembly are likely to approve CETA. The left party is opposed to CETA but it has limited influence. Social democrats and liberals have voiced concerns over CETA but it is very unlikely that they would vote against CETA.

Like other countries, opposition centres around CETA parallel justice system and food issues: genetically modified food, food safety and agricultural imports. Unlike other countries though, the debate around CETA also includes water issues and especially the privatisation of water and the protection of water sources. 

In the Netherlands, the House of Representatives and the Senate have to approve CETA. On 18th February 2020, the House of Representatives approved CETA by a narrow majority (72 votes in favour, 69 votes against CETA). Since then, the Senate has organised two expert meetings but no vote has been scheduled yet.

In the meantime, the Dutch trade minister has made proposals to make EU trade agreements more sustainable, together with France. The vote of the Senate will take place once this proposal is finalised. This political move has enabled the government to gain time on CETA until after the next parliamentary elections in March 2021.

There is an active and vibrant broad civil society coalition “Handel Anders” against CETA which hope to stir the Dutch Senate vote towards a no. foodwatch is part of it and will raise attention to CETA committees and their threat for transparency, democracy and food safety.