Ceta summit in Brussels cancelled

Today Thursday was supposed to see the signing of the Ceta trade agreement between Canada and the EU. But since Belgium failed to reach a consensus with it regions, the Canadian governmental delegation has cancelled its trip to Brussels. Some commentators are pleased that Wallonia kept up its resistance, saying this may force renegotiations. Others voice disappointment at the EU's inability to take action.

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Spiegel Online (DE) /

Opposition has been good for Ceta so far

Spiegel Online praises the Walloons' resistance as an important incentive to make further changes to Ceta:

“A look at the contents of Ceta shows that it is indeed a relatively progressive agreement. But it also shows that many of the progressive elements and supposed last-minute changes wouldn't exist without the pressure that came from critics. This is especially true for the public investment court system that replaces the controversial private tribunals for investors. It was only written into the agreement at the end of the official negotiations, thanks to pressure from German Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel (of the SPD) and others. … The Prime Minister of Wallonia Paul Magnette is not entirely alone in demanding further improvements to the investor protection system and guarantees for the EU agriculture industry. … The involved parties should be open to further negotiations. These have only improved Ceta so far.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Blockade comes at wrong time

The EU is crippled and the consequences may well be a lot more serious than the failure of Ceta, Der Standard fears:

“All the soapbox speeches by leading European politicians about 'us' 500 million EU citizens as the largest economic power on the globe setting 'our' standards across the globe are nothing but hot air. No, it's not going to happen, either in trade or in social or environmental policy. We just talk about it a lot. And by the way, this not only applies to ruling politicians but also to lots of NGOs and opposition members in this context. Agitprop and an inability to compromise will not help us forge a common European policy, and especially not the sort of urgently needed foreign and security policy to which serious foreign trade policy used to belong. At a time when war crimes are being committed in Aleppo and a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean is heading towards Syria, this is just tragic.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Brussels' double standards

While the EU fusses over the rebellious region of Wallonia it is attacking the Visegrád states on their refugee policy, Rzeczpospolita complains:

“There has been no official criticism and the EU leaders are actually giving in to the demands of the Walloons. Because here they are dealing with social democrats and a supposedly civilised Belgium, one of the EU's founding members … At the same time a few eastern European countries have different views on refugee policy than the others. Their resistance also has its reasons, because their state interests are affected. And what's more, this is in an area where EU treaties are not even as clear as they are on trade. It's not even clear whether the EU has any mandate here. Yet this didn't stop the threats and sermons about wayward nations that are not mature enough and not European enough.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Europeans have lost interest in a shared future

Europe's problem is not a democracy deficit, but its disinterested citizenry, Le Monde asserts:

“A parliament in Strasbourg that is elected in a general election based on proportional representation; a council of ministers that approves decisions with a qualified majority; a commission that is nominated by the governments and whose members are individually confirmed by the European parliament; a court for controlling the whole construction, that is founded in the law. In short, no objections. If the Europeans don't identify with this it means, quite simply, that they don't want to construct a future together. This lack of community spirit is delegitimising Europe. ... The British have decided to leave the EU. ... At the risk of seeing their kingdom break up, and of realising soon afterwards that the EU is the benevolent cement that holds together the continent and the oh-so-threatened nation states.”

The European (DE) /

Put Europe in the hands of the people

In view of the Ceta debacle, The European calls for a Europe that national parliaments cannot block:

“The EU cannot function as a union of states ... How can a community function when disagreements within a single government condemn all the others to inaction? This is exactly what has been happening every day since 2008: banking crisis, euro crisis, Greek crisis, Georgian war, Ukrainian war, Syrian war, refugee crisis. ... Whoever reinforces the national level – whether this be governments or parliament – is condemning Europe to inaction. This is exactly what the nationalists want: to destroy the EU by crippling it. ... Decisions that affect all European citizens should be made by all Europeans collectively. The only proper place for this is the European parliament. We need a Europe of citizens.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Politics powerless against populists

Wallonia's opposition to Ceta testifies to all the populism and lies the deal's detractors are using against it, the public radio broadcaster Český rozhlas comments:

“If you believe the Walloon politicians, the agreement will weaken the protection of European workers, consumers and the environment and ruin Europe's agriculture. And the Walloons won't be persuaded by the countless explanations and legally binding protocols that prove the contrary. … If the opponents believe that far smaller Canada can impose damaging standards that hark back to the exploitation of the 19th century they really have gone mad. That's just paranoid. … The leaders of the European states lack the courage to say clearly why we need free trade, why it is good for us. But this means they're leaving the public sphere to the populists.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

There is no alternative to this EU

Who should have more powers: the EU or the member states? Keskisuomalainen believes neither alternative will improve decision making within the EU:

“The problems with the Ceta agreement illustrate the difficulty of reaching a decision in the EU. A single group has more sway over the proceedings than befits its size. The Union is divided at the moment, as are many of its member states. So a repeat of this situation is more than likely. Yet the alternatives to the current decision-making process are not attractive. To reduce the influence of individual members would only create more distance and could further intensify the differences. And if the powers of the member states are extended, the decision-making process will become more democratic, but even more complicated than before.”