TTIP on the agenda in Brussels and Berlin

This week, TTIP was back on the agenda of the European Parliament. The Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) decided on the timetable to prepare its opinion on the TTIP report of the International Trade Committee (INTA) which will be voted on in May in plenary. The Culture and Education Committee (CULT) also presented its draft opinion which will be discussed in the next meeting.

SOLIDAR stressed again its main concerns regarding TTIP in a letter to the INTA rapporteur Bernd Lange and EMPL opinion rapporteur Marian Harkin. Besides our concerns regarding the transparency of the negotiation process and the question of the dispute settlement mechanism, SOLIDAR stresses three major points:

  • Social services need to be excluded from TTIP negotiations with legal certainty. Social services are provided directly to a person in need of support and play a preventative and socially cohesive role. Opening them up to international competition does risk the quality and accessibility of social service provision.
  • Public Procurement: The EU Directives on Public Procurement adopted in 2014 provide the possibility for public authorities to include social and environmental quality criteria in their public tenders and to refrain from awarding service contracts to the cheapest provider. This is a significant improvement and EU negotiators of TTIP must not risk this achievement by considering quality criteria in public procurement as non-tariff barriers to trade which have to be removed. Governments need to retain the ability to address societal needs by applying socially and environmentally responsible criteria to procurement.
  • Enforceability of labour rights: To enable sustainable development, TTIP must ensure that all parties adopt, maintain and enforce at all levels of government the eight core conventions of the International Labour Organisation for all workers, as well as the Decent Work Agenda, and that those minimum standards set a starting point for regular improvements that are built into the architecture of the agreement. Recourse to dispute settlement, which should be on a state-to-state level rather than in private courts, as well as possible trade sanctions are to be included into TTIP.

Also at national level TTIP was debated this week. SOLIDAR attended a high-level event on “TTIP - chances and risks” organised by the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Monday, 23 February 2015 in Berlin. Participants stressed the fact that free trade agreements are important for Germany but critical points need to be taken into consideration. TTIP is therefore a chance to set standards in the age of globalisation, according to party leader Sigmar Gabriel. Reiner Hoffmann, head of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) very clearly stressed the need for the enforceability of labour rights and standards, a point welcomed by SOLIDAR. Also the delivery of social services in the general interest must not be undermined.

Recent developments on the issue of dispute settlement were also discussed, as Socialist Party representatives from Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg prepared a text (in German) on the Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) for the congress of the Party of European Socialists that took place in Madrid this past weekend. SOLIDAR remains critical regarding the general necessity of a special juridical system for private investors.