National parliaments to have their say on Ceta

After planning to consult only the EU Parliament as regards the Ceta free trade agreement with Canada, the EU Commission has now decided to allow the national parliaments to have their say. Some see this as a clever move in the dispute over the distribution of power in Europe. Others believe it is a mistake particularly in a context of growing Euroscepticism.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Disempowerment of the EU Parliament

Having Ceta ratified by the national parliaments won't do anything to bring the people closer to the EU, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes:

“By overriding its institutional framework in a sort of act of passion, the EU is only harming itself. The EU Parliament is a democratically legitimated institution, and as such entitled to shape trade policy on behalf of the entire Union. The EU's legal groundwork does not foresee appeals to national parliaments on questions of trade. ... The EU is now viewed askance by many of its citizens. If it wants to continue existing it must counteract the widespread alienation by giving itself a new footing in certain areas. But this goal won't be reached by supplanting the EU Parliament - which is supposed to represent the people - any time it wants, or by making it subordinate to the national parliaments.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Juncker has sacrificed unity

After the Brexit vote the EU should have made a show of unanimity, Il Sole 24 Ore complains:

“The Commission's decision to let the national parliaments vote on the Ceta agreement is a grave mistake. Not just because it hinders the agreement and could even block it, but above all because it is the first politically and symbolically important decision with serious consequences to be taken since the Brexit referendum. The Commission could have demonstrated that - despite the decision in Britain - the EU not only continues to exist but that it is also united and acts together. Instead it has only reaffirmed the fragility of the integration project, which is beginning to crumble because of the predominance of a few and their interests. … The EU is being conditioned by a minority. A blindness that has been criticised by doubters over many years.”

Financial Times (GB) /

An important step against Euroscepticism

Juncker's decision to let national parliaments have their say on Ceta is wise, the Financial Times writes:

“The politics surrounding the relationship of the member states with the centre are currently so sensitive that there is little point inflaming them for the sake of a trade deal which in any case has limited impact. ... The UK’s vote to depart the EU should occasion soul-searching in Brussels as well as in London. The popular animus against a centralised and unaccountable Europe does not begin and end in Britain. No one doubts that the EU has competency over much of what goes into trade deals, but that does not mean that the commission should be trying to ram through agreements rather than allowing ratification country-by-country. The Commission’s decision, while it will delay and complicate policymaking in the future, was the right one to make.” (DE) /

Another setback for EU avoided just in time

Juncker's U-turn is the right decision, believes:

“Jean Claude Juncker and his trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström have realised just in time: not everything that is legally correct should be implemented politically. … Precisely because Ceta is a prototype and a pilot project - and far more than a trade pact about beef and cheese exports - this agreement must be put to the national parliaments. Jean-Claude Juncker should have accepted this from the start. Unfortunately he is not the political Commission president he pretends to be. Otherwise he would have opted to go on the offensive right away and declared that Ceta was subject to the agreement of the national parliaments. As things stand he corrected his self-righteous stance only now, weakening the EU yet again after the Brexit vote by making much ado about nothing.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Juncker has not learned his lesson

Juncker's insistence that the Ceta free trade agreement must not be ratified by the EU member states' national parliaments is grist to the mill of EU opponents, Der Standard points out:

“Does Juncker have a clue what is going on? The EU's second-biggest economy, which too many people fail to realise is simply irreplaceable because of its experts and its significance in the world, says goodbye not least because of Brussels' centralisation tendencies and the EU Commission reacts by side-stepping the nation states. The British hurricane threatens to send a wave of secession crashing over the EU and Brussels is only increasing the size of the swell. .. Taking seriously the citizens' concerns - regardless of whether they are irrational or justified - means increasing legitimacy and making processes more transparent. The Union is a far cry from both. This is about political, not legal issues.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Agreement should be decided in Brussels

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's plan to leave the vote on Ceta to the European Parliament is the right course, the Süddeutsche Zeitung explains:

“A storm of anger is blowing, increasingly aimed at Jean-Claude Juncker. Yet the President of the European Commission is only doing his job. His institution is responsible for the common trade policy in the EU. The member states decided that was how it should be. They also voted unanimously at their summit meeting in Brussels to continue the work on the two agreements. In view of the public criticism of these deals Juncker asked the heads of state and government whether they still wanted them - and offered to suspend the negotiations. The heads of government rejected this. Now the EU member states must, however, also accept that Juncker doesn't want to leave it to the 28 national parliaments to vote on Ceta.”