ECJ advocate-general: Trade deals require national parliaments’ approval
The European Court of Justice’s advocate-general’s opinion is an important precursor to the court’s final ruling, which is expected in the spring
The EU could face the drama it experienced in trying to close the Canada trade deal with every agreement it attempts in the future.
The European Court of Justice’s advocate-general on Wednesday issued a non-binding opinion saying national and regional parliaments across the EU must also have a say on ratifying trade agreements.
In 2014, the European Commission asked the court to rule if the EU-Singapore trade agreement, and similar upcoming deals such as one with Japan, can be approved by EU governments in the Council and the European Parliament or whether some 38 national and regional parliaments must also be included in the ratification process.
In the opinion, “advocate-general Eleanor Sharpston considers that the [EU trade agreements] can only be concluded by the EU and the member states acting jointly,” a press release said.
Provisions such as dispute settlement, certain parts of investment, or air and maritime transport services fall into a shared competence between the EU and its member countries, Sharpston argued.
The inclusion of national and regional parliaments in the ratification process nearly capsized the EU-Canada trade agreement in October, when the Belgian regional government of Wallonia — following a rejection by its parliament — threatened not to sign the deal.
The opinion is an important precursor to the court’s final ruling, which is expected in the spring. The court’s judges usually follow the advocate-general’s lead.
Still, the Singapore case faces the full court — meaning all 28 judges — and has such high political implications that the judges could draw a different conclusion.