European Parliament silences itself:  majority of two votes down a debate on TTIP

Millions of people have waited for months for the European Parliament to take a stand on TTIP, the planned free-trade agreement between the USA and the EU. The vote was scheduled for today but a last-minute decision by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz (S&D), meant that the vote was postponed and the whole report was sent back to the committee on international trade (INTA).

Further, a very slim majority (183: 181) of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Conservatives (ECR) and the Liberals (ALDE) this morning voted to refuse the plenary debate on TTIP, which is in contradiction with the Parliament’s rules of procedure. The GUE/NGL voted en bloc against removing the debate from the agenda since the group is adamant that citizens have a right to hear their MEPs arguing their positions on TTIP in public and confronting TTIP supporters with the public’s legitimate concerns. GUE/NGL considers that this debate is absolutely necessary. Many S&D deputies abstained.

Before the vote on whether the debate should go ahead or not, President of the GUE/NGL group, Gabi Zimmer, said: “These dirty tricks are not worthy of a democratic parliament and my group will have no part in them!”

Helmut Scholz, GUE/NGL coordinator on INTA and rapporteur for the group on TTIP, said the postponement of the vote was critical mistake: “This is a sign of the uncertainty of the EPP, S&D, ECR and ALDE groups, since they were not united on the ISDS mechanism and could not be sure that it would pass in the plenary. It is important for us to carry on with the democratic debate in the societies of the member states as well as in the USA and to include civil society fully in that discussion.”

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Speech by GUE/NGL spokesperson on TTIP, Helmut Scholz (DIE LINKE.), planned for the plenary debate today:

“Supporters of TTIP are used to claiming that this agreement would be necessary due to changes in the global economy. They are right, the economy has changed. But TTIP is the wrong answer!

“We don’t need an economic alliance between EU and US aimed at confronting China and Russia and other emerging nations. Instead we have to shape our world together with these partners and not against them. For that trade policies have to be decided in a democratic way.

“TTIP is not only a confrontation with the outside world but an internal one as well. Citizens perceive the planned regulatory cooperation council (RCC) as an attack on their rights. What the supporters of TTIP call obstacles to free trade are in fact democratic achievements.

“Big companies may not like it, perhaps, but lawful and safe standards are extremely important for society. Because of that we are fighting hard against the ISDS mechanism. Because of that we keep fighting for decent work, healthy and sustainable food, for local public services and against TTIP.

“Today the Parliament will not come to a decision on TTIP. The larger groups are probably afraid of the result of the vote. Madam Commissioner, I call on you to cancel at least the next round of the TTIP negotiations until such time as we have a position on TTIP by the Parliament. Use this time to rethink your trade strategy. Abandon the negotiations on TTIP, CETA and TiSA. Instead of these, we rather need agreements on promoting local and regional trade, on fighting the exploitation of workers in global production chains, and on combatting environmental dumping. Start a democratic opinion building process with the citizens of the EU, with their organisations and parliaments and with our partner countries with a view to a common future.”

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