EU pushes Belgium to back CETA | News | DW | 23.10.2016
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EU pushes Belgium to back CETA

The European Union has given Brussels a deadline to reach an agreement about the free trade deal with Canada. The Belgian region of Wallonia has rejected the ultimatum, arguing the deal hurts European interests.

The European Union issued an ultimatum to the Belgian government on Sunday over the stalled CETA free trade deal with Canada. All 28 EU governments have backed the deal, but Belgium has not been able to give its official assent without unanimous support from its five regional administrations. French-speaking Wallonia has steadfastly opposed the deal.

The EU has given Belgium until late Monday to overcome the resistance to the agreement or risk putting an end to years of negotiations and the possibility of what some experts say could be a 20-percent boost to trade.

"The Commission has been working 24/7 to find a solution," said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on Twitter. "We now hope that Belgium will bring this matter to a successful close."

Wallonia rejects deadline

But Wallonia has rejected the bloc's 24-hour deadline. Late Sunday, the region's leader, Paul Magnette, told the Belga news agency that an "ultimatum is not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights."   

Wallonia has refused to assent to the deal on the grounds that it will hurt European farmers and grants too much power to international corporations. According to Magnette, his administration was also given almost no time to debate the far-ranging trade deal.

"Democracy takes a little time," Magnette told news agency Agence France-Presse. "I wasn't asking for months, but you can't carry out a parliamentary process in two days."

Some EU insiders have accused Magnette and his government of using CETA as leverage to make gains in domestic politics.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told state broadcaster RTBF that he was meeting with the leaders of the country's five regions on Monday in hopes of hammering out any problems.

The EU has warned it will cancel a summit planned for Thursday to sign the accord with Ottawa, unless Belgium can break the deadlock.

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