'TTIP-free zones' spread across Europe

The Bulgarian city of Karnobat has become the 2000th city or council to turn "CETA and/or TTIP-free."

Plastic chickens at an anti-TTIP protest | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Sep 2016


It has joined what is claimed to be a "growing European movement" to halt the controversial trade agreements between the EU, US and Canada.

On Wednesday, Nils Loret, a coordinator for the 'TTIP-free zones European network' told this website that by declaring their cities and counties CETA and TTIP-free zones, mayors and local politicians had "affirmed their will as elected representatives to make citizens' voices heard."

According to anti-TTIP campaigners, cities such as Amsterdam, Cologne, Edinburgh, Grenoble, Barcelona, Milan, Vienna, Thessaloniki, have taken a similar stand against the transatlantic free trade agreements.


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Loret said, "They have all denounced the lack of transparency in the negotiations and called for local and regional bodies to play an integral part in the talks."

It is clear, he said, that citizens "want their voices to be heard" on the issue by their governments and the European Commission.

It is claimed that some 75 million citizens in Europe now live in "TTIP and/or CETA free zones".

Loret explained, "For this, we calculated the sum of all the TTIP/CETA-free cities' populations. It doesn't mean that all these people have taken a position against TTIP or CETA, but that they live in a city or a region which has declared itself to be TTIP/CETA-free zone."

Loret added, "In France for instance, a new campaign is inviting people and shops to declare themselves as TTIP/CETA-free. In the UK, there is also a student movement which has managed to declare some universities as TTIP/CETA-free."

He went on, "It's crystal clear that people across Europe refuse these deals. Some surveys show it well - no less than 62 per cent of French people want their government to stop TTIP and CETA.

"In Germany, 70 per cent of the participants to a survey said they believe TTIP has more disadvantages than advantages. 

"This is in addition to the more than three million people who have signed the European citizen initiative and the high number of NGOs, unions, consumer and farmer organisations who oppose the deal.

"Given the number who are involved in the campaign to stop TTIP and CETA, we feel more than comfortable to claim that there is widespread support for the talks and ratification to be halted."

Further comment came from Amélie Canonne, one of the facilitators of the French collective Stop TAFTA. TAFTA is the French name for TTIP.

She said, "It's crystal clear that people across Europe and their local representatives categorically refuse these unfair trade deals and it is time for national governments to listen."

In addition to the pressure from local authorities, both trade deals have been recently called into doubt by senior politicians from several countries in Europe. 

The French secretary of state for foreign trade, Matthias Fekl, and the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, have voiced doubt about TTIP, while the Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has also raised concerns.

The negotiations between the EU and the United States have failed, but "nobody is really admitting it", said Gabriel last week.

Even so, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed at the G20 summit in China that the Commission will continue negotiating the TTIP agreement. A spokesperson for the US trade representative, Michael Froman, denied the talks had stalled. He told Germany's Der Spiegel: "Negotiations are in fact making steady progress."

Widespread demonstrations against CETA and TTIP are scheduled to take place across Europe this autumn and, on 20 October, mayors and councillors opposed to the deals will gather in Brussels for a 'citizens' CETA summit'.

About 60 mayors across Europe have so far signed a joint statement, calling for TTIP and CETA to be scrapped. 

It notes that CETA "will jeopardise democratic principles by substantially reducing political scope and constraining public choices", and concludes: "For all these considerations, we demand that current negotiations on TTIP and TISA be suspended [...] and we urge the European Parliament, European Council and national governments not to ratify CETA".

The US and the EU have been negotiating TTIP for three years to forge a free trade zone covering half the world economy. Both had sought to conclude talks this year, but differences remain.

 

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