Elections for the European Parliament kicked off Thursday in the Netherlands and the UK and will continue through Sunday as all 28 European Union member states give voters the chance to shape the only directly elected body within the EU. While low turnout figures and reports of voter apathy across Europe are likely to garner headlines, proponents of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would be wise to pay attention. The future of the mega-free trade deal between the U.S. and the EU may well hinge on the results.
In July 2012, the European Parliament exercised its ability to reject international trade agreements when it struck down The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), largely in response to a growing number of public protests against the deal. In recent months, concerns over environmental and safety standards, the protection of intellectual property rights, and a general lack of transparency in the negotiation process has sparked skepticism across Europe and threatens the future of TTIP.
TTIP currently has the support of the two largest parties in Parliament, The European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), but an anticipated rise in the number of seats held by extremist parties strongly opposed to the deal on both the right and the left could pose problems. While EPP is predicted to retain its position as majority party, it is likely that S&D will close the gap. A shift in the Parliamentary balance of power will also likely shift the specific issues on which TTIP negotiations focus.
With the world focusing its attention on Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine, it is unlikely that the European Parliamentary elections will receive significant mainstream media coverage within the U.S., but that shouldn’t trick you into thinking they don’t matter. On Wednesday, May 28th, ASP will host Paul Adamson, Philippe Maze-Sencier, and Geoffrey Harris for a discussion centering on the economic, social, and political impact of the results, including their implications for TTIP.