Ceta free trade agreement: Ceta in court (neue-deutschland.de)

Photo: Daniel Reinhardt / dpa

It has now been almost four years since the Ceta free trade agreement between Canada and the EU was signed with great pomp. Ceta is “the most comprehensive, most ambitious and most progressive agreement that has ever been negotiated by Canada or the European Union, and will open a new dimension for our economic partnership,” both parties said in a joint statement. Ceta will deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth and encourage job creation.

But the free trade agreement is still not fully in force. Although the European Parliament approved the treaty at the beginning of 2017, it has not yet been ratified by all member states. In Germany this is now also a legal issue. Several lawsuits are pending before the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. A lawsuit by the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag was heard on Tuesday. The parliamentary group wants the highest judges in the country to clarify whether a statement by the Bundestag on the free trade agreement violates the Basic Law. According to the lawsuit, the Bundestag was too vague and issued the government with a “blanket power of attorney”.

Parliament adopted the opinion in question in September 2016 at the request of the Union and the SPD. The subject was the signature and provisional application of the trade agreement. According to the Left, the Bundestag did not fulfill its responsibility to participate in the formation of political opinions on EU issues, the responsibility for integration. The Federal Constitutional Court must now clarify how this responsibility for integration is constitutionally structured and what requirements must be placed on the Bundestag.

Left parliamentary group leader Amira Mohamed Ali criticized the court for the fact that Ceta is already being applied “without there being a law passed by parliament on it”. The Federal Ministry of Economics said in defense that the agreement had been concluded with Canada – a country that is “definitely very close” to Germany in its values ​​and views on democracy and the rule of law.

It is not yet clear when the judges will pronounce a verdict. It is also still unclear when further lawsuits regarding Ceta will be negotiated. At least it is not the first lawsuit against Ceta that the Karlsruhe judges have to deal with. Urgent motions against the agreement were being negotiated before it was signed. At the time, the judges allowed German participation if, among other things, the section on special courts was left out and the federal government ensured that Germany could also leave again. For its part, the European Court of Justice came to the conclusion in April 2019 that Ceta was compatible with EU law.

Opponents of the agreement are particularly critical of the planned special jurisdiction for disputes between states and investors, which they believe will undermine democratic freedom. The Left Party receives support from the Greens and non-governmental organizations in its fight against the agreement.

The spokeswoman for economic policy of the Greens in the Bundestag, Katharina Dröge, does not share the arguments of the left in the process. At the same time, however, she considers Ceta to be “politically wrong”. According to Dröge, “with the unjust rights of action for corporations, it harbors enormous risks for environmental and consumer protection and public budgets.”

Thilo Bode from the consumer organization Foodwatch said: »If Ceta is fully ratified, the Ceta committees can make far-reaching decisions without involving the parliaments. This undermines the basic principles of democracy and endangers standards for the protection of consumers and the environment. «For Robert Huber from the association Mehr Demokratie, trade agreements like Ceta threaten to undermine the rights of parliaments» especially in the member states «. Alessa Hartmann, however, warns that, due to the corporate rights of actions created by the agreement, governments will “think twice about enacting effective climate laws – for fear of expensive damage claims from corporations.”

In Cyprus, the parliament rejected ratification of the agreement because of similar concerns. The government there now wants to renegotiate the free trade agreement. The federal government rejects this. She just wants to wait for the outcome of the lawsuits to ratify Ceta. With agencies