EU Parliament puts off TTIP debate
The EU Parliament postponed the planned TTIP debate on Wednesday. It was clear in advance that an agreement would not be reached due to the large number of proposed amendments. After a tumult in the plenary session Parliament President Martin Schulz decided to put off the debate. Schulz has violated the principles of democracy, commentators criticise, and see the discussion about the free trade agreement increasingly falling victim to populist manoeuvring.
EU Parliament President abusing his power
On the surface the dispute in the European Parliament may be about protecting foreign investors through private arbitration tribunals (ISDS) but what the President of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz is really trying to do with the delay is support the European Commission and the German government, the left-leaning daily taz suspects: "Using a procedural trick ('too many amendments') he has sidestepped democracy in Strasbourg. In doing so Schulz has once again abused his power. … With its vote the Parliament could have charted out a clear course in the negotiations with the US. But clearly that didn't fit in with the agenda of a politician who always makes sure that everything goes in the direction his big buddy [and German Vice Chancellor] Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel want it to. … We can only hope that the EU Socialists and Democrats group will rebel against being muzzled and put the TTIP and the ISDS firmly back on the agenda - before the most important topic of this legislative period is postponed indefinitely."
TTIP exploited for populist ends
The highly important debate on the TTIP has been commandeered by populists, the centre-left daily Der Standard complains: "The main responsibility [for the postponement of the agreement] is borne by the divided Socialists and Democrats group, who support the TTIP but double dealed on the controversial arbitration tribunals for investors. In public many socialists criticise the agreement, above all in Austria. But in the Trade Committee they voted for a reformed arbitration tribunal. However before the vote 68 S&D members of parliament backed an amendment put forward by the Greens and the Left Party which demands just the opposite. The piqant detail here was that the Greens, like the Left faction, made no secret of the fact that what they wanted was to halt the entire TTIP agreement - to the satisfaction of the anti-EU groups on the right. So the complex issue of the TTIP threatens to be crushed by pure populism."
Unclear signals from the EU Parliament
Annoyed at the sudden postponement of the debate the left-leaning daily Duma comments as follows: "Could it be that the EU's only directly elected institution is refusing to take the concerns of Europe's citizens seriously? Or does the postponement of the TTIP debate mean that the European Parliament is reacting to pressure from Europe's civil society and has decided to pull a symbolic brake so it can work out amendments to the agreement? Perhaps the Parliament is also afraid that the vote on the TTIP will reveal the MEPs' true colours. Or that the TTIP will be rejected. Or is it the usual strategising and secret agreements that are behind the delay? How should we interpret the MEPs behaviour? Why are they afraid of a TTIP debate?"