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European Day of Action: Together, let's roll back corporate power!

What is the European Day of Action? Why are people protesting against TTIP? A guide to the Saturday, 11 October protests taking place across the continent.

Location of the different Day of Action protests on Saturday 11 October 2014.

What's happening on the European Day of Action?

On October 11, people from all over Europe will go to the streets to make their voices heard. We will protest against three free trade agreements currently being negotiated by the European Commission: TTIP, CETA and TISA. Protests will take a number of forms: from art performances, to seminars, flashmobs, concerts and massive marches, and range from London to Bucharest, from Helsinki to Barcelona. Over 400 different actions will take place in 22 countries.

Who is standing behind these protests?

This decentralised European Day of Action is being organised by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, rights defenders and farmers. Volunteers from grassroots movements like Occupy tremendously contributed to building the European dimension of this Day and there are also very good contacts to Global Frackdown.

All these groups are determined to put the environment and people's rights before corporate interests, which is what TTIP, CETA and TiSA are meant to serve.

What are TTIP, CETA and TiSA?

TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (also called TAFTA – Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement), is being negotiated between the US and the EU since July 2013.

CETA, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, has already been negotiated between the EU and Canada and is now being finalised.

TiSA, the Trade in Services Agreement, is now under negotiation among 50 countries, including the EU.

Why are people going to the streets against TTIP, CETA and TiSA?

On October 11, we will show that we are not going in line with the trade policy of the EU Commission and that these free trade agreements are not being negotiated in our names. We are especially calling out to our governments, who legitimate these negotiations in the EU Council, to use their influence to stop these talks.

These upcoming trade deals threaten our already weak democracies and pave the way for an attack on the environment, health systems, food, jobs, public services, digital rights and much more. Though they will have a huge  impact on our lives, the EU Commission is negotiating them in secret. Lobby groups, however, have privileged access to negotiators, on both sides of the Atlantic.  

From the early beginning civil society has been excluded from these negotiations. The only proper information we had for the last months were leaks, released by courageous individuals in the institutions. Now, coincidentally a few days before the protests, the EU Council finally decided to release the TTIP negotiating mandate but key negotiating texts, which outline joint agreements and draft decisions between both sides, stay locked behind closed doors.

Even members of the EU Parliament have little access to this information. The EU Commission and the US trade representatives organise a ridiculous parody of transparency: MEPs have to go to separate reading rooms to get insight into documents. The few parliamentarians who really make it there are not allowed to take paper and pencils or any device. They cannot share what they read with experts, or colleagues. Since the deals are hundreds of pages thick, have an incredibly complex structure and vocabulary, and since the devil is in the details, there is simply no credible parliamentarian oversight – no matter what officials state.  

So, why is it so important to the EU Commission that these negotiations stay in the dark? TTIP and CETA aim to “harmonize” regulations on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result the norms and regulations applying to goods and services should get mutually accepted. On first sight this sounds like a pretty nice idea, but a closer look shows that it is about lower standards being accepted. A production method forbidden in Europe but not in American would for example indirectly be allowed, through imports from the other zone. Expect a race to the bottom for food safety, environmental standards, health rights, working conditions, public services and privacy protections.

TiSA, also called “GATS plus”, focuses on the liberalisation of services. There, public services are especially under attack, as well as crucial financial regulations.

But this is not enough: In all of the agreements, investors will gain even more influence because they can sue states if they take regulatory measures to protect for example public health or the environment. If new legislation is passed that “affects expected profits”, investors can use a mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and get refunds of some billion euro from governments. Sad examples are Egypt, which got sued by Veolia because of rising the minimum wage, or Canada being sued by Lonepine for their moratorium on fracking.

As a consequence it will get even harder for NGO's, trade unions and other groups to convince their government that new legislation is needed to improve peoples living conditions and protect nature.

Making life harder for NGO's, the influence of trade and investment on legislation should get automatized. Under TTIP and CETA there is another mechanism planned, which will change the way how politics work. A “regulatory council” should be established with the purpose to check new legislation on their effects on trade and investment - even before it is discussed in the European Parliament.

Therefore it is very likely that laws, which would smaller profits, will never make it there. Via this “regulatory cooperation” the harmonization between norms and regulations of the EU and the US or Canada should also be driven forward lacking any democratic control. That means that topics that are excluded from the talks now because of public opinion could get in through the back door in the next years. 

What are our demands?

Saying all that, it's pretty clear that these agreements will only serve the profits of big corporations and investors but have lots of downsides for the people on both sides of the Atlantic and weaken our democracy even more. In this light it is also “understandable” why the EU Commission doesn't want the public to get informed about them or even have influence on the process. And it is “understandable” why our governments, who legitimate the negotiations in the European Council, are hiding away.

But this is not acceptable. If trade agreements are negotiated that have such a high impact on all of our lives, it is not acceptable that we don't have the right to speak out.

It is not acceptable, that the EU Commission blocks a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) carried out by 240 European organisations with legally problematic arguments.

And it's not acceptable, that the leading politicians of our countries support this agenda and don't listen to the concerns of the people.

Therefore we will go on the streets on October 11 and demand that these negotiations are stopped until there is a democratic discussion about it in all the member states of the European Union and the public is involved in the process.

Besides that we are stepping in for a different trade policy, which puts people before profits, protects nature and takes democracy seriously. And we stand in solidarity with citizens and groups all over the world who share our concerns for the environment, democracy, human and social rights.

Furthermore we will not wait for the approval of the EU Commission to launch an ECI. We started a self-organised ECI – which was already signed by hundreds of thousands of people within a few days. On the Day of Action we will also reach out to people on the streets to sign the ECI.

What can you do?

Join the Day of Action! At www.stop-ttip-ceta-tisa.eu you can look up events in your own city and easily participate. 

Sign the ECI! You can find it online at stop-ttip.org and sign there.

And this is most important: The Day of Action is going to be a strong sign on what the population of Europa thinks about the EU Commissions trade policy. But it's not very likely that the EU Commission will skip the negotiations and change their trade policy over night.

Which means for us, that this campaign will go on for some time and that we will have to stay focused on our goals. And therefore: If you care about these topics, get in contact with local groups and ask how you can contribute. Doesn't have to be much, but together we will make these changes happen!

About the author

Barbara Glattauer volunteered for different NGOs in Vienna in the last few years (like the anti-racism NGO “ZARA” or the environmentalist NGO “Global 2000”). Since January 2014 she is supporting Attac Austria in the campaign against TTIP, mostly by giving workshops and lectures on this topic. She studied philosophy and is now working in the field of adult education.

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