(24 October 2016) – Belgium’s Wallonia region yesterday (23 October) dealt a fresh blow to a proposed EU-Canada trade deal, rejecting a 24-hour ultimatum from the bloc to end its objection to the agreement.
In an embarrassment for the 28-nation EU, Belgium has so far been the only member not to sign up to the CETA trade deal, blocked by French-speaking Wallonia, which has refused to endorse it. The EU has warned that unless Belgium makes its position clear, it will cancel a summit on Thursday (27 October) to sign the accord with Ottawa, and indicated that it expected Prime Minister Charles Michel to come up with an answer today (24 October).
Paul Magnette, the leader of the Wallonia region, told the Belga news agency that an “ultimatum is not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights”. Magnette hit out at the EU, despite efforts by the bloc to provide reassurances to his government over investment protection – one of the major sticking points in negotiations between Brussels and Wallonia.
On Saturday, 8,000 people including young people, farmers, union leaders and entrepreneurs joined a rally in Amsterdam in a show of solidarity, organisers said. They held banners saying “Our world is not for sale” and “Stop these bad trade treaties”. Wallonia has also enjoyed support from activist groups like Greenpeace which charged that the deal risked satisfying “corporate greed” and trampling on people’s rights and health standards on both sides of the Atlantic. (EurActiv / AFP)