"It's hard to know what drives politicians to sell out their people and their country." (5th par. fr. end)
5/6/16, "The TTIPing Point: Protests Threaten Trans-Atlantic Trade Deal," Der Spiegel, Dinah Deckstein, Simone Salden, Michaela Schiebl
"An unprecedented protest movement of a scope not seen since the
Iraq war in Germany has pushed negotiations over the TTIP trans-Atlantic
free trade agreement to the brink of collapse. The demonstrations are
characterized by a level of professionalism not previously seen."
"As the battle over TTIP was lost, Angela Merkel feigned resolution yet
one more time. "We consider a swift conclusion to this ambitious deal to
be very important," her spokesperson said on her behalf on Monday. And
this is the government's unanimous opinion.
But the German population has a very different one. More than two-thirds
of Germans reject the planned trans-Atlantic free trade agreement. And
even in circles within Merkel's cabinet, the belief that TTIP will ever
become a reality in its currently planned form is disappearing.
That's because on Monday morning, Greenpeace published classified
documents from the closed-door negotiations. Even if the papers only
convey the current state of negotiations and do not document the end
results, they still confirm the worst suspicions of critics of TTIP.
The 248 pages show that bargaining is taking place behind the
scenes, even in areas which the EU and the German government have
constantly maintained were sacrosanct. These include standards on the
environment and consumer protection; the precautionary principle, a
stricter EU policy that sets high hurdles for potentially dangerous
products; the legislative self-determination of the countries involved,
etc. Even the pledge made on the European side that there would be no
arbitration courts has turned out to be wishful thinking. So far, the
Americans have insisted on the old style of arbitration court.
The result is that Merkel's grandly staged meeting with US
President Barack Obama in Hanover eight days earlier had been nothing
more than a show-- one aimed at hiding the fact that the two sides are
anything but united in their positions.
The leaks have resulted in a failed attempt to bypass 800 million
European citizens as they negotiate the world's largest bilateral free
trade agreement. From the very beginning, the government underestimated
the level of resistance these incursions on virtually all aspects of
life would unleash among the people.
What began as a diffuse discomfort over opaque backroom dealings
grew into a true public initiative, especially in Germany. It was fueled
by an international alliance of non-government organizations that has
acted in a more professional and networked way than anything that has
TTIP Protests a Part of Everyday Life
Three years after the beginning of negotiations, events protesting
free trade agreements have become part of everyday life in Germany. In
cities and towns, thousands of events are being held to express
opposition to deals like TTIP, CETA, as the recently negotiated
agreement with Canada is called, and TISA, an international deal
covering trade in services.
Here's a sample of what this looks like in just a few places. In
the city of Mainz, 150 orchestra musicians play the protest song "We're
not Merchandise," a reworked version of Ludwig von Beethoven's "Ode to
Joy." In Darmstadt south of Frankfurt, 230 people in a packed hall grill
candidates in the local election on the issue of free trade. Meanwhile,
in Cologne, where there are traditional "dance into May" celebrations
marking the arrival of May 1, a "Dance against TTIP" was even held.
In Bergisch Gladbach, a town located near Cologne, the city council
approved a resolution opposing TTIP and CETA. A total of 310 cities,
municipalities, counties, districts and regions have registered
themselves with the Munich Environmental Institute as TTIP-free zones.
So what is prompting thousands of people to use their spare time to
study up on such complicated material as a free trade agreement? Or to
voluntarily participate in workshops and discussions addressing the
incomprehensible legalese used by the EU in such documents? Or to travel
hundreds of kilometers to attend a protest?
Anyone seeking to better understand how Germany's protest culture
has changed in recent years need only travel to the city of Münster. A
room on the first floor of the Institute for Theology and Politics is
full of dusty devotional objects commemorating protests of the past.
There's a quote on the wall from Nelson Mandela as well as a Cuban flag;
and on the shelf there's a yellowing binder with the words "Nicaragua
1979-1991" on it.
A New Protest Culture
On the first and third Tuesday of each month, the group Münster
against TTIP meets here. Its members include people like Ute S., a
67-year-old retiree who worked as a civil servant for the federal
government. These days, she spends about two hours a day surfing social
networks and online publications for new information about CETA and
TTIP. Or people like Stefanie Tegeler, 36, a political scientist, who
says, "I have nothing against free trade, but I do have a fundamental
problem with a lack of transparency." And people like Michael Beier, 49,
a marketing expert who says: "I was never a political person, but I
have found my movement here."
At this particular meeting, the group discusses the most recent
TTIP protest in Hanover. Over 150 group members traveled on three buses
to the protest, and most had never even attended one of the Tuesday
meetings. "When they're needed, though, the people come," says Beier,
"because they understand that TTIP is something that impacts all of us."
The new quality of the protests against TTIP has also turned
marketing man Beier into an activist. Beier is pleading with people to
leave their stage wagons and microphones at home. He says this is about
keeping people on equal footing. "The people don't need show-masters
Thirty-five-year-old Jörg Rostek, who is typing the minutes from
the meeting into his laptop, says, "What we are witnessing here is a new
protest culture that is different from all the time-honored rituals."
Rostek is one of the founding members of Münster against TTIP, but
he has also been active with the Green Party. He says that local
politicians "have little time to delve into issues like TTIP," and that
these gaps are now being filled by local initiatives. "We are thinking
here in big contexts, we're working our way through highly complex
circumstances, we're reading hundreds of pages and we're seeking out
experts who can classify and explain things," says Rostek.
'Not Worthy of a Democracy'
Rostek says it's important for him to emphasize that he and the
others at the table "aren't just against it." And he says they're not
just fighting against the four letters, "but rather to ensure that
democracy and European values survive." In that sense, the fight against
CETA and TTIP also has nothing to do with unvarnished anti-Americanism,
adds Stefanie Tegeler, who says that such sentiment isn't prevalent
among her generation, anyway. "At the end of the day, the Canadian and
American people are also fighting for the same rights," she says. "If we
shared our knowledge, we could learn from each other."
At the same time, at the other end of Germany, Greenpeace is going
public with leaked documents from the secret TTIP negotiations. They
make a huge splash in the country and leave many asking if the trade
deal is now doomed. Late that afternoon, representatives of the
non-government organization Mehr Demokratie, or Greater Democracy, a
national group that advocates for an increase in the number of
referendums held in Germany, hold a meeting in Munich. They want to hand
out flyers at a village festival and also try to gain supporters for a
referendum against CETA that is scheduled in Bavaria. The EU is planning
to implement parts of the agreement even before national parliaments
are provided with the opportunity to vote on it.
The German government's secrecy in its TTIP dealings is "not worthy
of a democracy," says businesswoman Brigitte Grübler, 46. She's been
joined at the meeting by the CEO of a mid-sized company as well as a
former top Siemens executive.
A large share of the recruits to the anti-TTIP movement come from
the more educated parts of society, as indicated by a survey conducted
by TNS Enmid, one of Germany's leading pollsters.
professional troublemakers -- they're people who don't like to be taken
for idiots. "The government has been withholding essential information,"
one of them chides. "I never would have been allowed to do that in my
previous position as an executive."
Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder barely has a chance to enter
into the festival tent before a flyer is passed into his hands. The
politician with the conservative Christian Social Union party smiles
amiably. Even the police attempt to be as polite as possible to the
protesters. "If you need anything, just get in touch with us," the
officer leading the police tells the protesters. "Good luck."
The police's own union has even joined forces in the protests against
free trade, as has every other union that is a member of the German
Trade Union Confederation (DGB). They aren't alone. They are joined by
the social welfare organization Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband. The
German Cultural Council. Environmentalist organizations like BUND, NABU,
WWF, NaturFreunde, the Environmental Institute and Greenpeace.
Development organizations Bread for the World and Oxfam. Organizations
critical of globalization like Attac, the citizen movement Campact, the
consumer protection group Foodwatch, the German small farmers
association and Mehr Demokratie.
In October, they all joined forces to hold a protest against TTIP
and CETA in Berlin that drew people from all across the country. Some of
the partners on the national level were even instigated by Economics
Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
In order to counter claims of a lack of transparency in the trade
negotiations, Gabriel invited representatives of major institutions to
join a TTIP advisory board. But it didn't take long for disputes to
emerge. The officials on the board complained that the Economics
Ministry was largely representing the EU position and that critical
voices were being brushed over. Slowly, those voices began to get louder
-- representatives of the church exposed problems TTIP would create for
fair trade, unions expressed concern about its impact on the working
world and the head of the consumer advice center pointed to problems
with food standards. "Until then, people had just been focusing on their
individual issues. But now it was clear how many areas of life TTIP
would permeate," says one member of the advisory board. A good number of
those members then joined the anti-TTIP movement.
Around 250,000 people traveled to Berlin for the mass demonstration
in what was the largest protest in Germany since the marches against
the Iraq war in 2003.
Disparaging a Movement
From the very beginning, politicians with both parties in the
German coalition government -- the conservatives with the Christian
Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats -- sought to disparage
the movement. In a debate about TTIP in the federal parliament, the
Bundestag, CDU member Andrea Lämmel said, tersely, "We know how
signatures are collected on the streets."
Fellow party member Joachim
Pfeiffer referred to the citizen movement Campact as being part of an
"outrage industry." Those who have decided to hitch themselves to the
cart of Campact, Attac and Foodwatch, are "simply constructed," Pfeiffer
The organization Lobbycontrol noted that media coverage of the
protests had been oddly unbalanced, alleging that many news
organizations sought to portray the peaceful protests in ways that
somehow put them on the level of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Pegida
But none of the labels stuck -- neither the claims of ties to
Pegida nor the suggestions by politicians and the business community
that TTIP opponents were either notoriously anti-trade,
anti-globalization, hysterical scaremongers or anti-American. Support
among the American and German populations for TTIP has dropped
considerably over the past two years before recently falling off the
Proponents argue that this is due to their opponents' efforts to
make the debate an ideological one. "Organizations like Foodwatch and
Campact are nothing more than professional protest companies that make
money off people's fears and don't provide any factual input in the
public debate about the TTIP," complains CDU politician Pfeiffer.
A New Kind of Movement
As it turns out, the opposite is true. The growth of the anti-TTIP
side has a lot to do with their use of arguments that are supported by
studies or external expertise, which TTIP supporters have not been able
The success of the TTIP opponents is closely tied to the
professionalization of non-governmental organizations. NGOs like
Greenpeace, Campact and Foodwatch have competent staffs and more than
enough resources to order counter-assessments, hire experts, carry out
actions. Their experts can analyze complicated trade papers and
translate them into language that a lay person can understand. They are
networked to one another, even internationally, and are adept at using
social media. They force the release of information about laws and
supply the public with internal documents whilst TTIP supporters insist
on the confidentiality of the negotiations.
The fight against TTIP began with Pia Eberhardt. The Cologne
resident works for the Brussels-based NGO Corporate Europe Observatory
(CEO), a group that monitors lobbyists. The economist had already gained
some experience examining international arbitrage during her studies,
so she took on the planned mechanism in the TTIP. When she discovered
the powerful possibilities for legal action by businesses against states that it contained, she wrote a report and tried to establish contact
with journalists. CEO simultaneously discovered that the European
Commission in Brussels had eagerly met with business representatives in
advance of the TTIP but not with representatives of civil society. The
first big issues with the TTIP had been found: A lack of transparency,
the prioritization of business and the establishment of parallel
standards of justice.
German organizations quickly adopted the issue. In the spring of
2013, even before the European Council, the powerful EU body
representing the leaders of the 28 member states, adopted the
negotiating mandate for TTIP, the first NGOs signed onto TTIP
Non-Negotiable network, an umbrella organization comprised of over 60
Neither the business nor the political world noticed what was
brewing. It had been a long time since trade policy had been a major
topic for NGOs. But when it became clear that the US-Europe pact would
exceed the framework set by all previous agreements, that changed.
'In the US There Has to be a Corpse'
Thilo Bode, founder of the consumer protection agency Foodwatch and
a former head of Greenpeace, didn't want to have anything to do with
TTIP at first. But more and more sponsoring members pushed him to take
it on. They wanted to know if European food sector standards were
imperiled by TTIP. Bode read up on the subject and soon discovered the
fundamental contradiction between the European precautionary principle
and the aftercare principle.
"In Europe, nothing is allowed that is
suspected of being hazardous to people's health," he says. "In the US,
there has to be a corpse, then things are regulated by litigation." The
next big TTIP subject was born.
Experienced campaigner Bode was hooked. In 2015, his book, "Die
Freihandelslüge" (The Free-Trade Lie) became a bestseller. In it, Bode
describes how political policy becomes subordinate to business interests
and how the business world can use the so-called instrument of
regulatory cooperation to intervene in legislation.
"The book fell on
fertile ground, because citizens continue to feel powerless, continually
have less of a say and are bamboozled again and again," says Bode. The
recent revelations only fuel that impression further: "In my already
long career as an 'activist,' I have never experienced a political
project in whose defense the government and the ministries have lied to
us so unwaveringly and brazenly and so one-sidedly taken up the side of
Greenpeace has been actively addressing the subject of trade since
1990. Their expert, Jürgen Knirsch, remembers with great fondness the
two crates containing "Practice Safe Trade" condoms that he had to
smuggle into the negotiation building during the world trade talks in
Seattle. In the riots that happened there, he met the Harvard legal
expert Lori Wallach, who is currently organizing the resistance against
the TTIP in the US as part of her work for the citizens' protection
organization Public Citizen. Knirch is well connected with the NGOs that
focus on trade. "There is not a lot of competition between us, we
exchange with each other and work together." The pooling of resources
and splitting of work is another key element of the movement against
Greenpeace is known for creating campaigns that are very media
savvy, but nobody can mobilize people these days better than the citizen
movement Campact. On their internet platform, people can start
petitions or sign ones, and thus take their first step towards being
politically active. With short explainer videos and jazzy calls to
action it manages to bring even difficult subjects to people's
attention. Campact also tries to get signatories to take action.
is the most powerful arm of the movement, this is where protests and
protest materials are prepared. During the last elections for the
European Parliament, they distributed 6.5 million fliers on voters'
"At first, TTIP was sold to us as providing growth and jobs," says
spokesperson Jörg Haas. But this claim by proponents has been exposed
piece by piece as fully over-exaggerated: The most optimistic studies by
proponents predict a modest growth rate of 0.5 percent over a space of
10 years -- those are just five thousandths per year. "The TTIP leaks
have now also dismantled the second story: that TTIP would establish
high standards," Haas says.
The EU and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) first had to
correct their growth predictions downward. Tufts University in
Massachusetts had presented research in 2014 that a post-TTIP Europe
would lose about 600,000 jobs by 2025 and -- depending on the country --
lead to a loss in personal income of between 165 and 5,500.
Global Justice Now, a TTIP opponent group, recently used the
Freedom of Information Act in the United Kingdom to force the release of
one of the reports commissioned by the government there, which has been
kept under wraps since 2013. In the report, researchers from the London
School of Economics argued that the agreement contained many risks and
brought few to no advantages. Prime Minister David Cameron held this
devastating result secret -- and instead promoted TTIP to his citizens.
The Controversy Will Stay
It's hard to know what drives politicians to sell out their people
and their country. What's sure is that, while the politicians in charge
may come and go, TTIP would remain for decades. International treaties
are very hard to rescind.
But EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström still wants to go
through one or two rounds of negotiations with the US before drawing a
summary. Observers assume that the ultimate outcome will be a "TTIP
Light," containing only the noncontroversial points, in order to save
face for all of the people involved.
At the same time, a complete cancelling of the agreement is not out of
the question either. "A world without TTIP is possible," says Bernd
Lange, a member of the Social Democrats and the head of the Trade
Committee in the European Parliament. In Germany, there is no lack of
politicians who would be happy enough if this tiresome subject would
simply flame out.
But that won't happen. Thilo Bode has now gotten to work on the
CETA Agreement with Canada, which is close to being signed. He
determined that the precautionary principle is hardly mentioned in the
agreement draft. "The EU has sold us out a long time ago," says Bode.
Now he wants to fight against it. He doesn't want to say how. It should be a surprise."
News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Protests against free trade deal TTIP now part of everyday life in Germany. Citizens say 'we're not merchandise' to be bought and sold in secret. Book, The Free-Trade Lie, became bestseller in Germany in 2015. 'Hard to know what drives politicians to sell out their people and their country'-Der Spiegel
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