The EU Commission is negotiating with Canada behind closed doors to change regulations that protect human health and the environment
Leaked EU documents reveal that a secret committee will begin discussions on how to weaken rules on pesticides and food quality standards.
The Stop TTIP/Stop CETA Campaign has published an internal European Union document showing the topics slated for discussion. These include pesticide authorisations and bans, national vetos on glyphosate, and harmonising regulations allowing imports and exports of food between Canada and the European Union. All without the oversight of Parliaments, or consulting national and European citizens.
On March 26–27, the first meeting of CETA’s Joint Management Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures takes place in Ottawa. CETA is the free trade agreement concluded between the European Union and Canada currently undergoing ratification by Member State parliaments, Italy included. This committee is made up of representatives from the EU Commission, the Canadian Government, companies, and regulatory bodies, but not a single elected body.
To call attention to the lack of transparency surrounding these measures, the Stop TTIP/Stop CETA Campaign has published a document with restricted access leaked from officials at the EU Commission’s DG Sante (Health and Food Safety Directorate). DG Sante will hold the scheduled meeting behind closed doors this Monday and Tuesday.
Many of the topics on the agenda will be of great interest for citizens and agricultural producers, but they will be dealt with in secret and outside the direct control of parliaments and civil society. European and Canadian technical experts, together with representatives of the private sector, will exchange information on new laws concerning animal and plant health, as well as inspections and controls.
They will also discuss guidelines that will determine equivalence between European and North American products, as well as the impact on imports caused by chemical standards. On the agenda too is the non-renewal by the EU for products containing Picoxystrobin, a pesticide believed to pose a high risk to terrestrial and aquatic animals.
And if that wasn’t enough — differences between EU member states' national measures on glyphosate will also be discussed. Following the European Commission’s recent move to authorise the use of glyphosate for another five years, some countries have decided to adopt more stringent national rules for this herbicide which is "probably" carcinogenic for humans.
These rules and measures are seen as posing a problem for free trade, although they aim to protect consumers and ecosystems. It will be up to the technical committee to understand how to overcome the obstacle of the precautionary principle. The same goes for trade in live animals and meat, with the request by North Americans to simplify the certification of their products.
“The risk we had predicted throughout our years of mobilisation is finally becoming a reality,” says Monica Di Sisto, spokesperson for the Italian Stop TTIP/Stop CETA Campaign, a platform co-ordinating more than 200 national organisations and 50 local committees. Although it has been possible to prevent the ratification of CETA so far in Italy, thanks to a powerful pressure campaign working in tandem with organisations such as Coldiretti, CGIL, Arci, Arcs, Ari, Assobotteghe, Attac, CGIL, Fairwatch, Greenpeace, Legambiente, Consumer Movement, Navdanya International, Slowfood, Earth! and Transform, CETA’s technical committees — which are inaccessible to citizens and elected representatives — are now becoming active.
“In one of them, meeting in Ottawa on March 26, discussions begin on the modification of standards and regulations that defend our rights at the expense of trade,” explains Di Sisto. “As can be read clearly in the document obtained from the Stop TTIP/Stop CETA Campaign, a group of supposed interested stakeholders and experts, who have been selected on we don't know what basis, get to decide how to harmonise, lower, cancel standards and regulations concerning food quality or the use of chemicals such as pesticides. Yet another move that keeps sensitive decisions far from the uncomfortable scrutiny of citizens, even though they will be the ones to suffer potential consequences.”
The Stop TTIP/Stop CETA Campaign is therefore making two urgent calls:
* The first directed at the most committed European parliamentarians (MEPs), calling on them to ask the EU Commission for explanations about the contents of this meeting and for full transparency of the topics dealt with;
* The second directed at newly elected Italian parliamentarians, who take up their seats on March 23. Many of them have signed the “#NoCETA — #Nontratto” call to establish a Stop CETA interparliamentary group. Now they have the power to act on behalf of Italians, asking the Government that is still in charge and the Ministry of Agriculture what indications, requests and possible vetoes have been interpreted at the European Commission.
The pesticides chapter of the latest report “CETA threatens EU member states”, published a few days ago by CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law), shows that there is an urgent need for them to intervene. According to the study, the application of the agreement will lead to a progressive weakening of regulations that are intended to protect consumers and the environment. It's a scenario which, without direct control by elected bodies, risks becoming reality.