The Belgian majority of PS-CDH, with the support of the MR opposition and Independent MP André-Pierre Puget, secured 58 votes in favour the EU-Canada trade agreement, CETA. This left just five votes by Ecolo and PTB against the deal. But as CETA made its way through the regional parliament of Wallonia, some Belgian MPs complained that the compromise went through parliament in less than 24 hours. Fast-track parliament procedures may be the norm in some parliaments in Europe, but not in Belgium. This is why the October 28 procedure has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Belgians who complain it was “a constraint irreconcilable with democracy”.
Walloons will now be working without delay to correct their “tarnished image” after the Belgium-Canada frustration that was caused from the October 27 EU-Canada Summit and CETA signature postponement.
“We need to restore our relationships with our European partners, but also overseas,” said Minister President of Wallonia Paul Magnette. He has emerged as the EU’s “Majestix” or a new-age Asterix-like hero. And he now believes the post-declaration CETA to be a good agreement for Belgium and the EU.
However, diverging opinions were raised during the Walloon parliament debate. “We had a very high resolution. It is not met,” said Ecolo MP Hélène Ryckmans, suggesting that many commitments remain unclear. “For a treaty that aims to a new generation, it lacks a strong ambition which translates in clear mechanisms.”
But Magnette argued that, after the intra-Belgian agreement, the parliament would be able to assess and suspend the social and environmental effects of CETA. Opposition MPs, however, disagreed and noted that the internal mechanism within CETA will not allow that.
Magnette: ‘It is clear that TTIP has died’ “It was very important, not only for Wallonia, and if we took some time, and I’m sorry for our partners, Europeans and Canadians – it’s because what we could get here is important for the Walloons and for all Europeans,” said Magnette.
During a late night appearance on Belgian TV, Magnette argued that the concessions Walloons secured in CETA will set a precedent for all future international treaties and, therefore, “it is clear that the TTIP is dead”.
“We put two latches: the first says we never ratify the agreement if these conditions are not met; the second lock allows the Walloon Parliament to annually review the implementation of the agreement against socio economic and environmental criteria. If the evaluation is negative, the Parliament may request the suspension of the treaty.”
On agriculture, Magnette noted that “it was especially important for us to preserve our agriculture, by putting safeguards to prevent unfair competition”.
Wallonia did not get everything it wanted, but progress was made. “I wanted to have a good agreement. What we have achieved today will be important tomorrow,” concluded Magnette.