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Protesters of BUND, a German non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving nature and protecting the environment, protest against CETA in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 12, 2016. (© Stefanie Loos / Reuters)
Protesters of BUND, a German non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving nature and protecting the environment, protest against CETA in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 12, 2016. (© Stefanie Loos / Reuters)

German court rejects bid to block EU-Canada trade deal, but battle far from over Add to ...

A German court has rejected a bid to block the government from signing the Canada-European Union trade agreement next week, but the battle against the deal is far from over.

On Thursday, Germany’s Constitutional Court turned down a request for an emergency injunction that would have prevented German officials from voting on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, at an EU ministers meeting next week. Once the EU ministers approve CETA, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to sign the deal at a Canada-EU summit on Oct. 27. The agreement still requires ratification by the European parliament and legislatures in each EU member state, but it could go into effect on a provisional basis once it is signed.

However, the legal fight in Germany isn’t finished.

Thursday’s ruling cleared the way for another hearing on the merits of the case, which argues that CETA violates the German constitution because it takes away powers from parliament. For example, the lawsuit argues provisions in CETA would create a council that would act as a kind of lawmaking entity that could change national regulations, something they say only the German parliament has the power to do. The court ruling on Thursday said Germany must be allowed to unilaterally terminate the deal if it is ruled unconstitutional.

The ruling also put restrictions on the sections of the agreement that can take effect in Germany on a provisional basis and it limited the scope of an oversight committee set up by the agreement.

Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who supports CETA, welcomed the decision. "I am very pleased with the outcome of the proceedings," Mr. Gabriel told reporters in Berlin. "I am very pleased that we have made a first big step, because if Europe were not able to deal with Canada, this would send a difficult signal in the world. For this reason I am pleased that we will make a big step towards finally giving rules to globalization.”

But opponents of the CETA also took heart.

“We are delighted about [the ruling],” said Jorg Hass, a spokesman for Campact, a social activist organization in Germany that has nearly two million members and was among the groups that filed the legal challenge. “This was only a ruling about a request for an urgent matter, so it was not a ruling on the substance of CETA and whether it’s constitutional. Our complaint has been considered valid enough that it will be the subject of a proper proceeding.”

That hearing will take place only after the German parliament ratifies CETA. But ratification is far from certain. The agreement must be approved by both houses, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, and there is considerable opposition in the Bundesrat which is made up of representatives from the country’s regions.

Activists say they have also gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on CETA in the state of Bavaria, which could impact how those state representatives vote in the Bundesrat.

“We are going to continue our fight,” said Mr. Hass. “You can be sure, that it’s not over yet.”

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