Public consultation or ‘concentrated attack’? With TTIP it’s all the same

Facepalm: When Karel de Gucht [pictured] offered to hold a public consultation on proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, he clearly did not expect to receive 150,000 responses. Now he is calling the public reaction a "concentrated attack".

Facepalm: When Karel de Gucht [pictured] offered to hold a public consultation on proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, he clearly did not expect to receive 150,000 responses. Now he is calling the public reaction a “concentrated attack”.

Isn’t it a shame about Karel de Gucht?

The European Union’s trade commissioner launched a public consultation on the hugely controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership back in January – as reported in this blog – but has now changed his tune.

After receiving more than 150,000 submissions from EU citizens – raising concerns about proposals to restrict our freedoms in multiple ways – he described the unprecedented response as a “concentrated attack”, according to an email circulated by

Perhaps somebody could send the following message to Mr de Gucht, to help him understand something fairly fundamental about his position:

When hundreds of thousands of people voice opposition to a political plan, that isn’t an attack; it’s called democracy.

Apparently it’s quite a popular concept in Mr de Gucht’s home country of Belgium, where they’ve been struggling to form an effective government since 2007. Perhaps that’s why he seems to have a problem with it…

Mr de Gucht seems keen to forget about his consultation so, faced with this opposition from a man who clearly thought an ill-informed public would support TTIP – or would not care about it – SumOfUs has launched an alliance with more than 150 partner organisations to create a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) calling for TTIP negotiations to be halted.

For this to work, these groups must collect at least one million signatures in seven European countries. The ECI can request a legislative act from the European Commission, repealing the European Union’s negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade Investor Partnership (TTIP) and not concluding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – and can force a hearing at the European Parliament.

At the same time, country-specific quorums must be achieved in at least seven EU member states, with a minimum number of signatures required to achieve that quorum. In the UK, that minimum is 54,750 signatures.

Inevitably there is a price to pay for this kind of democracy and SumOfUs is seeking donations to pay for the two full-time staff who are coordinating the European-wide campaign work, developing a software to collect the signatures online, and planning to print and send thousands of packages with information material and signature lists “so that TTIP is an issue on every market stall in even the remotest village in Slovenia”.

To contribute a quid towards this project, click here.

It might be one of the most important pounds you’ve ever spent.

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  1. Tisme's Cares August 21, 2014 at 6:24 am - Reply


  2. bookmanwales August 21, 2014 at 7:04 am - Reply

    It would seem the word democracy is bandied about on a regular basis when it comes to the government doing something we don’t like.
    If democracy is where we get the right to vote for people we want to do what THEY want then this is democracy.

    Getting back to the real world, unless the many hundreds of millions of pounds/dollars/Euros can be raised to match the bribery involved by the big multinationals then this like a all the other unsavoury practices of the EU will go ahead.

    In the UK at least little regard is placed on what the public want and is more to do with what the government want, Iraq, Afghanistan, Welfare reform, NHS privatisation, sale of schools, student fees, Royal Mail all these went ahead despite massive public opposition.
    It would seem that democracy is them doing what they want and us sitting quietly back and accepting it, oh sorry off to watch latest episode of BIg Brother may come back later to discuss this !!!

    • Mike Sivier August 21, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

      You’re certainly describing democracy under neoliberalism, which is what we’ve had for the last 35 years or so. Clearly it is time to change direction.

  3. casalealex August 21, 2014 at 7:40 am - Reply

    I really cannot understand how anyone can be expected to sign an agreement that would give worldwide unelected and secret corporations the power to sue democratically elected governments; override all decisions of their courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from their parliaments, all in the name of “tackling regulatory obstacles to trade”.
    In fact TTIP is obviously concerned mainly with corporate interest, and nothing to do with human rights, workers rights, the environment etc. Having their own courts making decisions in secret, and totally undemocratic..

  4. casalealex August 21, 2014 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Miliband: What discussions did the Prime Minister have with EU leaders and President Obama on whether the TTIP—transatlantic trade and investment partnership—negotiations for the free trade agreement are on track and when they are likely to be completed? Can he specifically reassure the House—this point has been raised by a number of people—that there will be no impact on our public services, particularly the NHS?

    Cameron: On TTIP …. there have been five good meetings on progressing it. We are pushing very hard … to set some deadlines for the work. No specific deadline was agreed, but it was agreed … that further impetus needed to be given to the talks and, specifically, that domestic politicians needed to answer any specific questions or concerns from non-governmental organisations, or indeed public services, that can sometimes be raised and that do not always…. bear up to examination. Perhaps I will do that with regard to the NHS and write to the right hon. Gentleman about that.
    The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady is right that this is a contentious and difficult issue, but I do not believe that it is one that cannot be solved through negotiation. If we are going to get the full advantage of these trade deals, so that they include services and financial services as well as goods, we have to address those problems. If we made trade deals simply about reducing tariff barriers… we have to do the difficult things to get the full benefit.

    Cameron: As I said to the Leader of the Opposition, I will write a letter to him— I do think this is important because all of us in the House feel—I would say instinctively—that free trade agreements will help to boost growth, but we are all going to get a lot of letters from non-governmental organisations and others who have misgivings about particular parts of a free trade agreement. It is really important that we try to address these in detail, and I would rather do that than give an answer across the Dispatch Box.

    Cameron: Perhaps I will include the hon. Lady on the mailing list for the letter that I am going to write. Having looked briefly at this issue, my understanding is that the NHS is not at risk, but I understand that people believe it could be, so we need to set out why we do not think that that is the case and what the negotiations will consist of. We must ensure that hon. Members who want to support the TTIP have good answers to give the NGOs…. when it comes to the crunch they often take quite an anti-trade position. I think that they are on the wrong side of history on this because trade has been a great way to lift people out of poverty, but I am happy to address these issues as fully as I can.

    Cameron: I do not believe that our national health service is under threat in the way that the hon. Gentleman says. There are many parts of international co-operation and trade from which our national health service can be a huge beneficiary. For instance, we lead the world in sequencing people’s DNA and building up a vast databank, so that is a huge opportunity…. We should not be frightened of our NHS being a great British success story, parts of which can be exported to the rest of the world. We need to ensure that the TTIP and other such things make that possible.

    JUNE 2014

  5. amnesiaclinic August 21, 2014 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Thanks for this, Mike. Very well blogged!


  6. jaypot2012 August 21, 2014 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I am totally against the TTIP as are many millions – but, we’ve got it coming as the government made up it’s mind a long time ago.

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