What is truth?

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FLANAGAN Luke Ming

6:57 PM (15 hours ago)
ttip-protest-in-london-uk2

LOOK – IT’S A CHICKEN!

Even if people have plucked it and dressed it in new feathers, if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s still most likely a bloody duck.

That was the situation today in the Plenary when we voted on what we were told was a new and improved version of the TTIP document (proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, between the EU and the USA) we’re sending to the European Commission.

RECAP

Cast your mind back a few weeks to the last Plenary session here in Strasbourg a month ago and the panic in the ranks of the ‘Grand Coalition’ – that’s the EPP and S&D combined, much like our own Fine Gael and Labour in the Dáil and just as dominant and anti-democratic.

In the lead-up to that vote (and remember, this isn’t a vote on TTIP itself, just an interim vote on a sort of guideline document from the Parliament to the Commission) the Grand Coalition was smug as a bug in duty-free rug, certain it had the votes to easily carry the day against all those of us who have been campaigning hard against much that is contained in this Corporate Charter.

At the last minute though – and it was the last minute – they realised they had a problem. The S&D’s were coming under enormous pressure, on the ISDS element of the deal especially.

ISDS

A little pause here, to explain the ISDS.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement proposal is supposedly to protect investors, and involves the establishment of a court and an accompanying new layer of legal jurisdiction over and above anything we have at the moment in either the EU or the USA. The proven history of both those type of ISDS clauses and of the new courts they use is that it enables major corporations to sue states on an equal footing, with the profit of those corporations – actual and expected – as the bottom line.

Because these TTIP negotiations have been held in secret, most people were late coming to the party, late in waking up to what exactly was being negotiated and agreed on our behalf.

THE PRETENCE

There are those like myself who have no problem with real trade negotiations getting rid of real obstacles to fair trade, be they simple bureaucracy – the bane of my life and probably yours, since this EU was established – or duplication of testing for exactly the same standards. That though is not what TTIP is about.

What I DO have a problem with is when what I see as protections that have been hard won over many decades of battling against vested interests – things like environment protections, labour rights, health & safety standards, food quality and so on – are treated as barriers by the corporations, with our politicians in power then agreeing to lower or even get rid of many of those protections.

Aside from all that – though parallel to it – is this ISDS issue, and here the S&D MEPs were coming under pressure from their own constituencies. Any politician with half a brain should recognise, ISDS is a weapon to be used AGAINST nation-states. When you look at both the EU and the USA, the question you have to ask is this – given that both claim to have legal systems of the highest standard anywhere, ever, why the need for yet another layer? What kind of investor will invest in the EU or the USA ONLY if this ISDS is in place? Do we need that kind of investor coming into any of our jurisdictions??? I don’t.

SCHULTZ SHUNTS DEMOCRACY TO ONE SIDE

Which brings me back to the last Plenary and – fearing defeat – the last-minute decision by its President, Martin Schultz, to pull the vote, a move that surprised even the most experienced members here. Yes, this is the same Mr Schultz who last week put his unwelcome oar into the Greek Referendum, reckoned that it would be better if the elected government of Greece were to be replaced by a few technocrats who would be more amenable to do the bidding of the EU institutions.

Anyway, in the last month Mr Schultz along with his fellow S&D MEPs, were busy beavering away with a new set of words and VOILA! We got a new ISDS proposal which – they claim – isn’t in fact an ISDS proposal at all but something entirely different, something better even for all us nervous EU citizens.

But there will still be a new layer of legislation, corporations will still be able to sue states in a court above and beyond any system that’s open to everyone else, and states will still be reluctant to introduce legislation they fear might be open to challenge in this new court.

if it looks, waddles, quacks…

BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS

The bad news is that this time the vote did go ahead, and this time the vote was carried (our own Famous Four from Fine Gael, Deirdre Clune, Sean Kelly, Brian Hayes and Mairead McGuinness, all voting for, right down the line, though in fairness to Nessa Childers, she went against her fellow S&D MEPs, voted against).

The good news is that this was just one battle; the war is still there to be won. And with your support out there, win it we will.

Regards,

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