On Thursday, June 12, the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima concluded that because the trade agreements negotiated by the European Union with the United States and Canada cover areas that fall under the shared competences of the EU and its member states, these agreements have to be ratified also by the national parliaments of the EU. Therefore, the Committee authorised its Chairperson to sign a letter from the national parliaments addressed to the European Commission urging it to increase the legitimacy of the agreements through their ratification by member states.
“An in-depth study of this matter revealed that areas covered by the agreements exceed the exclusive competences of the European Union. Therefore, the agreements should be ratified by the national parliaments of the EU,” said Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Chairperson of the European Affairs Committee.
The Chairperson referred to possible economic gains from trade agreement between the EU and the United States that stem from lifting certain trade barriers and creating the largest free trade area in the world. “However, since this agreement may affect such socially sensitive issues as genetically modified organisms, nanotechnologies and the right to privacy, its legitimacy would increase once it is ratified by national parliaments,” emphasised Kalniņa-Lukaševica.
The opinion adopted by the European Affairs Committee indicates that some trade agreements signed by the European Union with third countries, such as South Korea, Peru and Colombia, have been ratified by national parliaments; therefore, it is hard to see why a similar procedure should not be applied to the trade agreements signed with the United States and Canada. “Some of the areas covered by these agreements fall beyond common trade policy and are therefore under the shared competences of the EU and its member states. For example, such issues include transport services, criminal aspects of intellectual property, as well as settlement of disputes between investors and states. In light of all of this, the European Affairs Committee believes that the trade agreements with Canada and the United States fall under the shared competences of the EU and its member states,” states the opinion of the Committee.
Negotiations between the EU and the United States on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began in 2013. The purpose of the agreement is to simplify trade in goods and services between the EU and the United States by eliminating trade barriers, such as tariffs, unnecessary regulations and limitations on investments, in various economic areas. It is expected that the negotiations will be concluded by the end of 2015.
Meanwhile, inhabitants of many EU member states have expressed concerns that the agreement might lower the EU”s standards and thus threaten what has been achieved in the areas of environmental safety and social protection.
Negotiations between the EU and Canada on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which has similar goals, commenced in 2009 and are coming to a close.
Exclusive competences of the EU mean that in a given area the EU legislates on its own. However, in areas of shared competences, legally binding acts are adopted jointly by the EU and its member states.
Saeima Press Service