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A Million Signatures For European Citizen's Initiative Against US And Canada Trade Deals

More than a million people across Europe have signed a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) in the last two months opposing trade deals between the European Union and North America. The campaign, run by the Stop TTIP coalition, is supported by more than 320 civil society organisations, trade unions and consumer watchdogs from 24 EU Member States.

Hilda Palmer, Co-ordinator of Greater Manchester Hazards Centre and acting chair of  the UK National Hazards Campaign says:

“GM Hazards and the Hazards Campaign are active members of  the ECI and opposes TTIP because it is fast-track deregulation. It threatens to undermine the EU’s better than the USA’s regulations and standards on workplace health and safety, workers’ rights, chemicals, environment and food safety. It gives even more powers to employers, especially big corporations, to attack existing protective regulations and standards as ‘barriers to trade’ and to ensure that stricter regulations are never made. It also threatens local action on procurement .”

Campaigners say that the controversial trade deals, known as TTIP and CETA, would give unprecedented power to international corporations and thus threaten to overrule democracy, the rule of law as well as environmental and consumer protection. The treaties would allow governments to be sued by corporations before private arbitration boards if their laws or policies damaged the company's profits.

John Hilary, member of Stop TTIP’s Citizens’ Committee commented:

“Stop TTIP has collected more than a million signatures in record time. This is especially embarrassing for the European Commission as it has tried repeatedly to block any citizens’ involvement in the way these treaties are being negotiated and what the outcome should be. Jean Claude Juncker should listen to the growing opposition and stop both treaties immediately.”

In mid-July, the Stop TTIP coalition had applied to register a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) demanding that the European Commission stopped the negotiations on TTIP and to not conclude CETA. According to EU rules, an ECI of more than a million signatures can force the European Commission to review a policy and hold a hearing in the European Parliament. In early September the European Commission, however, refused to register the ECI claiming that it was not admissible. Stop TTIP then went ahead with a self-organised version of their ECI and is also challenging the European Commission’s decision in the European Court of Justice.

Susan George, member of Stop TTIP’s Citizens’ Committee:

“The European Union is desperately trying to stifle citizens’ involvement and prevent a critical debate from taking place about these trade deals. We don’t accept this. TTIP and CETA threaten democracy, labour rights, environmental standards and vital public services. Citizens want to have a say in this and they should! One million have already said “No, thanks!” How many more need to speak out before Brussels will listen?”

Stop TTIP announced it would intensify protests in the months to come. The signature collection will be continued and will be accompanied by creative actions and marches. The first of these will take place in Brussels on December 9th, the 60th birthday of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

John Hilary added:

“We will deliver a special gift to Jean-Claude Juncker on his birthday: A giant birthday card signed by one million Europeans. Politicians are always calling for citizens to get actively involved in European politics, and here are more than a million people who have done just that. On his 60th birthday, Juncker should blow out the candles on these massively unpopular and undemocratic trade deals that are being opposed by people across Europe. One million signatures is just the beginning. We will continue our protest until TTIP and CETA are history.”

Source: Hilda Palmer / ECI

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