As a petition rejecting the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) agreement gathered over a million signatures, opponents to the project gathered in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss tactics on how to put an end to the ongoing negotiations between the commission and the US.
The conference is being attended by activists, parliamentarians and trade unionists from both sides of the Atlantic.
GUE/NGL group president Gabi Zimmer said TTIP is "a threat to transparency and democracy and […] designed to reinforce a transatlantic power block that favours corporate power over people".
She lamented that "the European parliament at the end of the day only has the opportunity to say no at the end of negotiations" and that the institution was not granted enough involvement in the decision making process.
Eleonora Forenza, a member of parliament's international trade committee, shared Zimmer's concerns, warning that "TTIP's liberalisation agenda will undermine public services and social rights such as public healthcare, environmental protection and labour standards".
Michael Efler, a representative from the 'stop TTIP European citizen's initiative' and a keynote speaker at the conference, said the partnership agreement is "bad for democracy and the rule of law".
"[TTIP is] a threat to transparency and democracy and […] designed to reinforce a transatlantic power block that favours corporate power over people" - Gabi Zimmer
He promised to "show that the resistance is not only in some member states - it is a real European protest".
One of TTIP's most contentious points is the planned investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), which grants investors the right to bring forward dispute settlement proceedings against foreign governments. In short, under TTIP, US companies based in the EU would be allowed to sue EU member states.
Susan George, president of the transnational institute, underlined that "there is something in it for everyone - everyone has a good reason to be against this treaty". According to the Franco-American activist, TTIP presents "benefits for corporations, but not benefits for citizens".
George warned that "public services would be under great pressure to privatise" and that "in the agricultural sector […] we will have the same fate as Mexico under Nafta [North American free trade agreement] which means that small farmers will be wiped out".
Explaining that French company Veolia recently brought a lawsuit against Egypt after the country raised its minimum wage, she said "workers and trade unionists should be very worried […], any legislation to protect workers would be fought".
In addition, George warned that "families, all European citizens should worry about food sanitation and the regulation of health services".
Calling on citizens to "be a united force - we can win", she said, "it's not about changing this detail or that detail - it's about getting rid of this treaty".
Protestors presented commission Jean-Claude Juncker with a card featuring the one million signatures gathered against TTIP, in honour of his 60th birthday.