After the European Parliament voted in favour of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, educators will continue to fight this treaty that threatens to erode public education.
While the European Parliament endorsed the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on 15 February, the agreement could face an uneasy road ahead when 38 national or regional Parliaments in the EU member states get to decide on its ratification.
Nevertheless, while CETA awaits ratification by these national and regional parliaments, much of the agreement will be provisionally applied from 1 April 2017.
The European Trade Union Federations (ETUFs), including Education International’s European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education, had urged all members of the European Parliament not to ratify CETA at the plenary vote of 15 February. The concerns of the trade union movement remain unchanged despite the plenary vote:
• Public services are included in CETA, whereas an explicit carve-out from the scope of the agreement is required
• The ‘negative list’ approach for services commitments and the inclusion of ‘standstill’ and ‘ratchet’ mechanisms. These will serve to lock in present and future liberalisation and limit future efforts by governments to extend regulation or renationalise services. This will occur even in cases where past liberalisations have proven to be failures and it would be in the public interest to take the services back to public provision
• Restrictions on universal service obligations in public utilities,even though these obligations are necessary to guarantee citizens universal access to public services
• The Investor Court System provisions that expand far-reaching investment protection rights.Investors are granted special rights over other groups in society to sue governments for policies that they find threaten their current or future profits or business interests
• Weak provisions for human rights, including workers’ rights
Exemptions not clear
On public services specifically, ETUFs underline that “while the CETA Annexes include a number of limitations for public health, education and other sectors of public services, such limitations only provide a narrow shield for public services as they are delimited to so-called ‘publicly-funded’, a term not covered by the EU Treaty provisions”.
They highlight that no clear line is drawn between publicly and privately funded or provided services and that it remains unclear to what extent exemptions based on this wording would apply. In their view, a proper exemption would cover public services independent of how they are financed and supplied, and the protection of the ‘general interest’ must be favoured.
“The EU and its Member States are effectively opening the door to foreign for-profit providers and are extending new rights to private investors that go beyond any existing trade commitments,” they stress.