What will EU parliamentarians vote on TTIP ?

by Doru Frantescu, director and co-founder of VoteWatch Europe

https://twitter.com/dorufrantescu

 Update: this analysis has been read by over 3.000 people, mainly experts, in the first 72h since its publication. It has been recommended by specialised institutions such as the Atlantic Council, Johns Hopkins University, AmChamEU and senior EU politicians.  

Almost 900 amendments have been drafted to the European Parliament’s position on the ongoing negotiations conducted by the Commission for a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States (TTIP).

Although the European Parliament is not formally involved in negotiations, the European Commission is legally obliged to keep Parliament updated, and Parliament has the power to reject the trade deal once it has been finalised. As seen in the case of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the rejection of a done deal is not only a theoretical possibility, but can turn into reality if a (political) majority of MEPs disagree with the content of the deal, or the low level of transparency of the process. Before the actual ratification vote, the Parliament usually votes, once or more times, a non-binding resolution stating its position and the ‘no go’ zones, as is the case of the resolution currently being worked on in the international trade committee (INTA).

The immediate consequence of this avalanche of amendments was that the votes on this document had to be postponed, to allow time for proper assessment of all proposals. The text is now expected to be voted upon on 28 May in the INTA committee and on 9 June in the EP plenary, exactly two years after the EP voted its last resolution on TTIP.

Between now and then, we should expect an unprecedented lobbying activity as both the proponents and the opponents of the deal will aim to form ad-hoc coalitions and rally as much support as possible among the MEPs, to ensure majorities in favour or against the most contentious provisions of the text.

What are the starting positions ?

At this point, based on the previous voting record of MEPs corroborated with the results of the EP elections in 2014, one could foresee that a majority of EU parliamentarians are in favour of TTIP in general. In May 2013, a comfortable majority of 460 Members (78%) voted the ‘go ahead’ for the start of negotiations. These came from among the groups of the European People’s Party (EPP), Socialists (S&D), Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Eurosceptic EFDD group.

The only ones opposing at that time were the radical-left and green Members, as well as most of the non-attached nationalists. Interestingly, however, a small minority of MEPs in the big groups did not support the mandate: the Hungarian EPP delegation (coming from Viktor Orban’s party, who had started at that time to have differences with its European and American counterparts) and the French and Belgian French-speaking socialists (traditionally the most protectionist from among all S&D Members).

Here is the breakdown of the final vote:

TTIP all

What are the predictors of an MEP’s position ?

There are two key indicators that can be used to predict how an MEP will vote on TTIP: his/her inclination to vote in favour of free trade in general, and his/her inclination to vote in favour of good EU-US relations in general. If we look at the EP as a whole, the lowest level of support for good EU-US relations (measured as analysis of the MEPs’ votes on dossiers related to TTIP, SWIFT, PNR, NSA, NATO) is recorded among the French and Austrian MEPs, while the highest is seen among the Eastern European states (recent NATO allies) and the UK.

Slide1 - Support for strenghtening EU-US relations

Naturally, ideology plays a fundamental role, as the centre-right EU politicians share, on average, more of the US views and ways of doing things in the economy, society and in foreign affairs, compared to EU left wing politicians (i.e. the more you go to the left, the stronger the opposition to US policy and views). This can be attributed to the fact that the US is seen as a model that promotes free market, individual achievement and competition, values supported primarily by the centre-right in Europe. On the other hand, EU left-wing politicians have reservations concerning the US proposed approach on social standards, hence their comparatively lower level of support to the US in general.

This pattern can easily be spotted by looking at the breakdown of pro-US positions across dossiers, by political groups (data from the 2009-2014 term):

Slide2 - EPP+ECR

Slide3 - S&D

Slide4 - ALDE

Slide5 - GUE + Greens

Slide6 - EFD+NI

What has changed compared to two years ago ?

In parallel to the debates and trade-horsing inside the EU institutions, a fierce campaign for generating public support / opposition is being fought by the two sides, whose results may impact on the voting behavior of the MEPs. Since the start of the negotiations, the ‘no’ camp seemed to be much more active in the public arena and this has not remained without impact on the public opinion. The countries whose populations seem to be least convinced about the benefits of the TTIP are Germany, Austria and Luxembourg[1]. On the other hand, the surveys show that the majority of the public is still supportive of the TTIP in the remaining EU countries, with a peak in two ‘new Europe’ countries Poland and Romania (these countries have been in general highly supportive of strong transatlantic relations ever since the fall of communism in 1989). The public in the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland is also highly supportive of the TTIP.

PEW research centre

Despite this development, the MEPs that believe that TTIP should be stopped altogether will remain a small minority. The radical-left (reinforced after EU elections) will still oppose, as will the non-attached nationalists such as French Front National and some of their smaller counterparts in the other countries. The Greens/EFA will most likely be unsatisfied with the content of the deal and also oppose it. And so will part of the EFFDD group, more precisely the Italian 5-Stars Movement. Some small factions in the big groups may also not be happy with some of the provisions, and defect from the group line. However, a comfortable majority in favour of TTIP as such will remain.

 

What will happen to the ISDS: a softened mechanism might pass

On the other hand, key provisions in the TTIP will be under heavy fire and their outcome is uncertain. Chief among these is the investor-to-state clause, a mechanism which allows investors to settle disputes with national governments in international courts, rather than national ones. On this particular matter, the ideological footprint of the Members can easily be spotted: the more you look to the left, the stronger the opposition to ISDS, and the other way around. The radical-left, the greens and the socialists look set to oppose it, on the ground that this undermines the power of the public sector / state to regulate. The EPP, ALDE, ECR (and the UKIP) favour ISDS, arguing that independent courts are necessary so that private investors to feel confident enough to take the risk of investing in a foreign state.

Two years ago, the pro-ISDS camp won. A call to exclude the ISDS from the TTIP was rejected with 233 votes in favour to 352 against. Here is the breakdown of votes in May 2013:

TTIP ISDS

However, the pro-ISDS camp has lost a considerable number of seats in the EU elections (EPP alone has lost around 50 seats), while the anti-ISDS camp has gained, which makes that the balance of power among the MEPs is now extremely fragile on this topic.

Aware of this (and also reacting to the pressure from the pro-social sectors of the public), the Commission has promised to reform / soften the ISDS to make it more public sector-friendly. In this way, it hopes to convince part of the opposition to change camps, or at least not actively oppose. Traditionally, the British Labour delegation has been the most in favour of free market within the S&D group, but Labour has clearly stated its opposition to the ISDS. The surprise might come from the German SPD delegation who, even if it has been initially firmly against ISDS, Germany’s SPD Economics Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, seems to have soften his stance lately, as he is part of the ‘grand coalition’ in Berlin (it’s worth noting that half of the German SPD MEPs have not been present at the vote on TTIP two years ago).[2]

Moreover, through the softening of the ISDS provisions, the Commission aims to secure the support of and mobilise some of the EPP national delegations who might have otherwise become hesitant under pressure from the pro-social civil society, particularly the German delegation (which is also the largest), but also the Italian one (almost half of the Italian EPP delegation was absent from the vote who took place two years ago on TTIP).

If EPP Members are mobilised and a small number of S&D MEPs break the group line (or simply don’t vote), then a narrow majority may push through a softened ISDS. However, the exact phrasing and the internal horse-trading will certainly play a role in the outcome. Moreover, even if a provision supporting the ISDS is passed in June 2015, the balance of power may still change before the end of the negotiations and the ratification by the EP, if the ‘against’ camp becomes more successful in convincing and mobilising the public opinion, exactly as it happened in the case of ACTA (who initially had the support of a narrow majority in the EP, but in the end the tide turned overwhelmingly against it).

This article will be updated as things develop in the run up to the May and June TTIP votes. You are welcome to send me comments at doru@votewatcheurope.eu or directly below.

[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/29/is-europe-on-board-for-a-new-trade-deal-with-the-u-s/

[2] http://www.borderlex.eu/malmstrom-berlin-isds-ceta-ttip-likely-opposed-berlin/?print=print

MEPs call for a “European Roma Holocaust Memorial day”

The EU parliamentarians adopted a non-legislative resolution officially recognising the genocide of Roma that took place during World War II and calling for the establishment of a “European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day” dedicated to commemorating the victims of the genocide of Roma.

The resolution was adopted by 554 votes in favour, 13 against and 44 abstentions. All the EU political groups voted in favour. The votes against the final text came mainly from the Non-Attached MEPs of far-right parties like the Greek Golden Down, the Italian Lega Nord and the Dutch PVV, while French Front National decided to abstain on the vote on the final text.

Click here to see how each EU parliamentarian voted.

With this resolution, the MEPs expressed their concern over the rise of anti-Gypsyism in Europe. The text condemns all form of racism and discrimination against the ethnic minority and encourages Member States to address the history of Roma, in particular the genocide of Roma during World War II and to do more to end discrimination against Roma people.

The votes on the amendments were very close. These were linked to the wording to be used in the resolution. For example, an amendment proposed by the EPP and ALDE groups on the choice of wording for the European day dedicated to the victims of the genocide of Roma was narrowly defeated by 261 votes in favour, 316 against and 70 abstentions. This particular amendment wished to replace the words “Roma Holocaust” by “Roma Genocide”. A centre-left coalition of the socialists, the greens and the radical left plus the Italian delegation of the EFDD group opposed the change.

Click here to see how each MEP voted on this amendment.

Roma people are Europe’s largest ethnic minority with an estimated population of 10 to 12 million in Europe.

UKIP and 5-Stars agreed on only 27% of EP votes so far. What unites and what divides them ?

The group of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) in the European Parliament is mainly formed of the British Independence Party (UKIP), who has 23 Members and the Italian Five Star Movement, who has 17 Members. These two parties have joined forces at the start of the current EP term to form a parliamentary group, which is normally formed by parties that share common values and policy views.

In reaction to an article in the Italian media La Repubblica, we have undertaken an in-depth comparative analysis of the voting records of these two parties.

The analysis of the voting behaviour shows that they have quite different opinions on how the EU should look like and what its positions should be on global issues. In fact, these two parties have voted the same way in only 147 out of 541 roll call votes in the EP plenary so far (July 2014 – March 2015), or 27%, while in the rest of times they either cancelled each other votes, or one of the parties abstained.

The differences become even sharper if one looks at the voting record of the two EFDD co-presidents: out of the 89 votes in which both Nigel Farage and David Borrelli took part, they voted the same way in only 23 instances (25%).

But what exactly do they disagree on ? Here are a few examples.

UKIP did not back EFDD’s own position on the Commission’s Work Programme 2015

In January 2015, the EFDD group and each of the other six political groups proposed their own resolutions as reactions to the Commission’s work programme put forward by the EU Executive. Interestingly, UKIP Members did not support (they abstained) the text proposed by their own EFDD group, which was very critical of the Commission’s plans. It is worth noting that the text was submitted by the Italian Members. The EFDD proposal ended up being backed by less than half of EFDD MEPs, 21 of them, while 23 other EFDD MEPs did not support it (abstained). All in all, it obtained only 36 votes in favour (out of 633 votes).

Click here to see how each MEP voted and here to see the document that was voted.

 

PNR and anti-terrorism measures

The 5-Stars and UKIP also had different views on whether the EU should strengthen its anti-terrorism measures, including by using PNR instruments. A PNR (passenger names record) mechanism collects information provided by passengers on international flights, such as travel dates, ticket information and payment information. Through far-reaching PNR agreements, the EU has sought access to this passenger data and requested additional information from airline companies. The EU’s new measures to fight terrorism also include PNR agreements with third countries. Such measures were supported by the representatives of the 5-Star Movement, but the members of the UKIP voted against the resolution (click here to see how each MEP voted).

Israel and Palestine

Opinions of the UKIP members and representatives of the 5-Stars are also split on the crisis and ongoing dialogue between the Israeli government and the Palestinian authorities. The resolution which condemned the violations of human rights committed by both sides during the last Gaza war, was fully supported by the Italian Five Star delegation, whereas their British colleagues, who are more sympathetic to Israelis, voted mainly against the resolution (click here to see how each MEP voted).

ISIS

The EFDD group saw internal splits on topics related to human rights violations committed by the terrorists of the ISIS. For example, the MEPs from the 5-Star Movement voted against an EP statement that was endorsing the global campaign against ISIS, whereas MEPs from the UKIP voted in its favour (click here to see the vote).

Gender equality

The report about the progress made in gender equality pointed out fight against poverty among women and special measures to promote women employment, as well as reduction of gender gaps in salary and pension. UKIP members mainly abstained on this vote, while 5-Star Movement expressed its support to the report. Click here to see how each MEP voted.

UKIP and 5-Stars agree on opposing EU’s active policy in the Eastern neighbourhood

On the other hand, these two parties share the opinion that EU should not get involved in the Eastern neighbourhood. Both UKIP and 5-Star have voted against the EU providing a 1.8 billion financial aid to Ukraine. Click here for full report.

If you are interested in a similar analysis, contact us at secretariat@votewatcheurope.eu. 

EU Countries failed to fully implement EU Directive from 2011, aimed at tackling sexual child abuse

 

The number of websites related to child pornography is growing and is estimated that 200 images containing child pornography are put into circulation every day. Parliament again shed the light on the issue of paedophilia on the Internet in a resolution voted last Wednesday.

The 677 Members of the Parliament voted on this issue on 11 of March 2015. The main issues voted in the non-binding resolution addressing the sexual exploitation of children and child abuse images, were to embrace the investigation of offences, the prosecution of offenders and the protection of child victims. The resolution was approved by 90 % of MEPs (606) in favour and 4 votes against. 67 members abstained. (Click here to see how MEPs votes). All the political groups voted in favour of the text with the exception of the members of the radical left group GUE/NGL who abstained.

Continue reading

EU Parliamentarians demand to increase the resources of the EU foreign and security policy

The European Parliament adopted a non-legislative resolution on the annual report on EU Foreign and Security policy. 436 EU parliamentarians voted in favour of the document while 145 opposed it and 64 abstained. (Click here to see how the MEPs voted). The majority backing the report was composed of the grand coalition EPP-S&D-ALDE plus the Greens.

CFSP all

The report underlines the worsening of the security situation in EU’s neighbourhood. The MEPs believe that the EU has not been able to unleash its full potential to shape the international political and security environment due also to financial limitations and the lack of common policies. Continue reading

All EU parliamentarians, except communists and 5-Stars, endorse international efforts against ISIS

The Members of the European Parliament have voted a resolution in which they express their concern regarding the developments in the Middle East. The hard-left GUE-NGL group, as well as the Italian 5-stars movement were the only Members that voted against a paragraph expressing the full support of the EU for the international efforts against ISIS/Da’esh, including the military actions of the international coalition, coordinated by the United States, and encourages the EU Member States who have not already done so to consider ways of contributing to these efforts, including tracing and interdicting ISIS secret funds held overseas.

ISIS

Click here to see how each MEP voted.

EU economic policy: mixed recommendations resulted from the grand coalition

EU parliamentarians adopted three resolutions on three different angles of the European Semester for economic policy coordination for 2015. The big political groups, People’s Party group and the Socialists group, needed to reach a compromise position to be able to muster a majority, as neither of them had the numbers to pass its core agenda. As a result, the texts include a mixture of measures oriented both towards flexibility and competitiveness and towards more labour-friendly standards.

The first resolution, dealing with the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) for 2015, was the most disputed. It was adopted by 437 votes in favour, 249 against and 11 abstentions. (Click here to see how the MEPs voted). The text was supported by the grand coalition EPP, S&D and ALDE. All the other political groups opposed it. Continue reading

Human Rights and Democracy report backed by the majority of the MEPs

Members of the Parliament adopted the EU’s annual report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2013. The report was supported by 390 votes in favour, 151 against and 97 abstentions. Click here to see how the MEPs voted.

Among other topics, the adopted report puts a particular focus on the question of human rights in relations with EU partners, including China and Russia. The report discussed the challenges posed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, whether this policy of aggression is a Russia’s continuation towards authoritarian rule, with a worsening human rights situation inside the country. Continue reading

Greens, communists, nationalists vote against strong EU criticism of the Venezuelan government

A majority of EU parliamentarians voted a resolution asking Venezuelan authorities to immediately release all peaceful protesters, students and opposition leaders arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and fundamental rights.

The text voted states that Venezuelan government must also create an environment in which human rights defenders and independent non-governmental organisations can do their legitimate work of promoting human rights and democracy and ensuring the security of all citizens, regardless of their political views and affiliations. MEPs voting in favour of the declaration were of the opinion that the opposition has suffered arbitrary detentions and attacks in an election year, which could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral process. Continue reading

Gender-based report splits EU Parliament political forces

Every year, Parliament´s Women´s rights committee prepares a report about the progress made in equality between women and men. On 9 March, MEPs discussed the non-legislative report written by the Belgian Socialist Member Marc Tarabella in plenary and voted on it the following day.

The report as a whole received the backing 440 Members, while 200 MEPs voted against and 47 abstained. (Click here to see how the MEPs voted). Continue reading