Zoltán Massay-Kosubek

Genval, 15th FebruaryToday, the European Parliament has given its consent to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). In line with the usual European practice, CETA will be temporarily applied as from 1st March, a controversial practice which raises many eyebrows. This is a sad day for public health policy as now all the identified potential health side effects could apply without any corrective measures.

The European Parliament has voted on 15 February a new free trade deal with Canada – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA for short and gave it constent by (407 in favour, 255 against, 33 abstention).

Politically speaking, the mainstream political groups have demonstrated that the death of the ‘Grand coalition’, the political collaboration between the EPP and S & D groups was only ‘fake news’ and that major groups can count on the support of ALDE and ECR in crucial votes like the approval of CETA.

CETA people

(Source of the Photo – CETA Vote Action Strasbourg by Stop TTIP)

Concerning the public health side, by giving the green light to CETA, Europe is missing a crucial opportunity to fix the incoherence between trade policy and health: CETA has the potential to undermine public health policies and actions to prevent and manage non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, type-2 diabetes and cancers.

It is irresponsible from our decision makers to make a population level experiment by exposing our people to all unhealthy side effect of CETA without taking any correcting measures. It is very dangerous to neglect health concerns: when it comes to tobacco, unhealthy food and drink, or meat products full of antibiotics, CETA could do a lot more harm than good and end up costing us all more in the long term.

I find it also questionable that in light of the many democratic and legitimate concerns raised, the trade deal will be provisionally applied prior allowing the 28 national parliaments to have a democratic debate and approval. This is against the democratic spirit the EU is based on.

Following the European Parliament (EP) vote and approval of CETA, its provisional application will start on 1st March. This is because the Council of the EU (28 Ministers of the EU) approved provisional application on 28 October 2016 and set the date for notification of this decision to 17 February 2017. Article 30.7.3 of CETA says that provisional application can start on the first day of the month following notification of the provisional application, which will be in that case on 1st March.

The EU trade policy is witnessing turbulent time and it has its crossroad moment. The Walloon Minister-President Paul Magnette, who has almost managed to stop CETA in October 2016 , presented the Namur declaration in December 2016, which had been signed by around forty academics from both Europe and across the Atlantic, calling for a deep reform of the EU Trade policy.

Now, time has come to make coherence between Trade and Health Policies! It is now up the National Parliaments to express their concerns and vote against CETA according to their national procedures.

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