German activists have launched the country's largest-ever civil lawsuit in protest of a planned free trade agreement between the EU and Canada. They argue the trade pact, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), violates the constitution and the rule of law. Opponents of CETA contend the trade pact aims to do more than just remove cross-border tariffs on trade. They say it also aims to water down or abolish environmental, health and consumer protection regulations.
The organizations, Campact, Foodwatch and Mehr Demokratie, say CETA subverts the German constitution because it does not leave room for parliamentarians to interpret the agreement or vote against it. They are trying to prevent CETA from being "provisionally applied" before Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, ratifies it. The trade pact could be adopted as early as this autumn.
"The provisional application of CETA is highly dangerous because it will create a fait accompli," the executive national chairman of Mehr Demokratie, Roman Huber, said. A central objection is a mechanism (Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS) for resolving disputes between companies and countries that would bypass national courts. Rather than go through normal legal channels, businesses would be empowered to make their case in front of a panel of arbitration judges.
"The mere possibility that a court of arbitration could oblige the German state to make high compensation payments would have a considerable influence on regulation and legislation," the NGOs said in a statement.