I believe that TTIP is a major challenge for the EU. In particular, the ISDS mechanism represents a challenge because it will enable foreign investors to directly sue state governments which have been democratically elected. These companies will have the legal right to challenge any regulatory or policy measures of a host state that interfere with their ability to make profits or access markets. There are consequences for the ability of countries to maintain domestic regulatory space. The question for Europe is how foreign investors will be held accountable for damage caused through their operations. Although we are told of the potential market of 800 million people for European business, this represents giving too much power to profit-making companies. There is an example of this from Canada, where gas and oil exploration companies have taken the Canadian Government to court for millions. The implication is that this will have an effect on that government’s ability in respect of policy-making on the environment.
Yesterday, I referred specifically to education and the potential, through the ISDS mechanism, for an increased commercialisation and privatisation of our colleges and educational establishments. There is pressure to expand the scope of education commitments in TTIP. The EU must ensure that education is excluded.
There are also implications for culture and the arts. France was able to secure an exception for its film industry to protect it from the Hollywood blockbuster industry, but there are implications for the arts and theatre in this country. The challenge for Europe is to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, food and the environment as well as to ensure that governments act in the public good. It is vital that we have an open and frank debate on the issue in the House.
The other challenge I am keen to explore is derived from my chairing of the Irish section of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa, AWEPA. This has to do with the EU relationship with the developing world. Despite the progress made on the millennium development goals, poverty and inequality remain major challenges in the world and for the EU, as do political instability and conflict. These problems are causing people to risk their lives. Today over 1,000 people who lost their lives on the Lusitania are being commemorated but we must think of the thousands who have lost their lives. Europe has been found wanting in this regard.
Part of the reason for this inequality is the multinational and transnational companies moving into the developing world. Through coercion, bribes, fraud and the use of military goods they are clearing people off their land. This is having severe effects on food security and the environment.
There has been a process at European level towards a more transparent international tax regime but Europe must face this challenge and continue to press for transparency, country-by-country reporting and ensure no illicit flows of capital. Moreover, EU member states must implement legally-binding limits to the vulture fund claims in national jurisdictions.
A new report to be launched next week will call for Ireland and the EU to make clear the level of human rights due diligence that they expect of Irish and European companies working in the developing world. The report will be about Africa but it should equally apply to Irish and European companies working in Asia and South America. Some of these companies have offices in the European countries. I offer one final statistic. International trade union conferences are claiming that 4,000 workers could lose their lives before a ball is kicked at the Qatar World Cup football finals in 2020. That is a major challenge for the EU.