Brussels (AFP) – The signing scheduled for Thursday in Brussels of the treaty of free trade EU-Canada (CETA) appeared more than ever threatened Sunday by the failure of Wallonia, which has rejected any “ultimatum” of the EU and said that it was “disappointed” by a new proposal to reassure her.
“It gives us a disappointing document and at the same time it gives us an ultimatum. It is very amazing. This inspires us to ask questions about the goal”, indicated to the AFP the entourage of the head of the government of wallonia, Paul Magnette.
Belgium is the only one of the 28 countries of the european Union who is unable to sign the CETA, an agreement on more than 500 million Europeans, due to the blocking of this French-speaking region of southern Belgium and more than 3.6 million inhabitants.
The president of the european Council –which represents the 28 member States of the EU– Donald Tusk has given Sunday to Belgium until Monday evening to say whether or not she can sign the AACC, ultimatum rejected by Wallonia, which blocks the agreement.
Without the green light from Belgium, the summit and the signing scheduled for Thursday in Brussels, in the presence of the canadian Prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will be cancelled.
Mr. Magnette considers that such an ultimatum is not compatible with the democratic process”, declared with AFP his spokesman. “He has always refused to install in a timing-binding,” pointed out the spokesman.
- Before ‘Monday night’ -
“Tomorrow afternoon/evening ( … ), Mr. Tusk will have a telephone conversation” with Justin Trudeau, “to decide if they maintain the” summit”, has detailed to the AFP a source european.
“for the date of Thursday, if Belgium is not in a position to say if she can guarantee that she will sign, it is very clear to Mr Tusk that it makes no sense to have a summit, and there will be no summit and no set date for a new summit,” said this source.
“That decision will be made by mutual agreement between Mr. Tusk and Mr. Trudeau,” she pointed out. It “will depend on a lot of what the belgian Prime minister, Charles Michel, said Mr. Tusk”, stressed the same source.
Before talking to Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Tusk will have had a “telephone conversation with Charles Michel, who will have to say if Belgium is in a position to sign or not the agreement Thursday”.
“At the belgian level, negotiations are ongoing. Is scheduled for Monday afternoon a meeting of the ” comité de concertation+ (which includes all the federated entities of Belgium, the French-speaking, Dutch-speaking and the German-speaking, as well as the federal government, editor’s note) to make the point,” said a spokesman for the belgian Prime minister to the AFP.
- ‘Not advanced’ -
For their part, the european Commission services have forwarded Sunday morning to a document – obtained by the AFP – to the socialist Paul Magnette, and the permanent representative of Belgium to the EU, according to an eu diplomat.
The text of a page and a half contains a draft of a possible declaration of the Kingdom of Belgium concerning the protection of investments “, which meets all of the reservations which Mr Magnette expressed,” said the diplomat.
An interpretation disputed by the entourage of Paul Magnette: “This document surprises us to the extent that it contains far less advanced than those with Friday and Saturday”, regretted a source close to the leader of the walloon government.
During these two days, the Walloons had negotiated with Canada and the european Commission to try to resolve the dispute on this ambitious free-trade agreement transatlantic.
The question of the protection of investments is indeed one of the most sensitive of the AACC: it relates to the possibility given to the multinational corporations investing in a foreign country can bring a complaint against a State adopting a public policy contrary to their interests.
The treaty provides for the creation of a permanent court composed of 15 judges appointed by the EU and Canada, all of the hearings would be public. But the NGOS believe that this concession does not go far enough and fear that these “pseudo-judges” are lawyers business related to private firms.
The Wallonia sees in the AACC and the first fruits of the treaty TTIP (or Tafta), very unpopular, as the EU negotiates very laboriously with the United States, and calls for more safeguards in the face of powerful multinational corporations.