We did it! Thanks to your action and support, the European Parliament last week voted against the unfair EPA ultimatum and in favour of more time to negotiate fairer trade agreements (September 2012).
Over the past weeks many of you wrote to your MEPs asking them to take a stand in favour of trade justice, and prioritise development over European commercial interests. We were delighted and inspired by the time you took to personalise your letters, which made them all the more powerful (see below to read some of the comments you wrote). We even got a mention in the European Parliament debate on the topic!
On the 13th September, MEPs voted to reject the European Commission’s proposal to impose a unilateral deadline of 2014 on African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP) to sign up to unfair trade agreements, and instead proposed extending the deadline to 2016.
“No ACP country should be forced to sign an unsatisfactory EPA. This is not the trade and development relationship we should have” said David Martin, MEP and Rapporteur on the issue, before the vote.
During the debate on the proposal, Paul Murphy, Irish MEP on the Trade Committee, stated
“There is a word for this proposal to take away duty-free quota-free access to EU markets for a group of countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific region. It is called blackmail. According to the NGO Comhlámh the loss of DFQF [duty-free, quota-free] market access could effectively close the European market for some sectors and will be disastrous for the economies of the countries concerned.”
All the Irish MEPs didn’t support the commission’s proposal for a 2014 deadline during the vote, and many of them replied to your letters, indicating their concern and awareness on this topic.
The decision was welcomed by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas who said MEPs had shown ‘wise political judgement’ and that their support for extending the deadline ‘can help facilitate a more serene environment to make balanced decisions beneficial to all parties’.
While there’s still a long road ahead, and we don’t believe any deadline should be imposed on developing countries, this is a really positive step. MEPs across Europe listened to the concerns of their constituents, EU and ACP civil society and politicians. They stood up to the European Commission and took a stand in favour of development and trade justice.
Now we need to work to ensure the European Commission and Council (including the Irish government) listen, and begin to address ACP countries’ concerns.
The amazing efforts of campaigners like you, and across Europe and ACP countries have well and truly paid off. We couldn’t have achieved this success without you.
One campaigner wrote: “At a time in which we are all aware of inequalities in our own country, we must not perpetuate the gross inequalities that exist on a global scale.“
“Instead of bullying ACP countries the EU should be listening to their concerns and the reasons why they do not want to sign the deals in their current form‘ wrote another campaigner.
Keep an eye on our website for more ways to take action.
To learn more about the hearing in the EU parliament see below: