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Coup from Above

by Wilhelm Neurohr Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 at 4:24 AM

Free trade agreements serve geo-political goals. They are the "weapons," so to speak, in the global economic war. Critical persons see through this and rebel against "corporate rule" and against the dissolution of the primacy of politics by the primacy of the economy.


TTIP and Democracy

By Wilhelm Neurohr

[This article published on October 1, 2015 is translated from the German on the Internet, Wilhelm Neurohr was a city- and regional planner up to July1, 2015 and is a member of Attac and the Verdi German union.]

Free trade agreements serve geo-political goals. They are the “weapons,” so to speak, in the global economic war. They produce a few winners and many losers. Critical persons see through this and rebel more passionately than ever against “corporate rule” and the dissolution of the primacy of politics by the primacy of the economy.

The refugee theme superimposed on everything and the Ukraine crisis have indirectly much to do with the unfair free trade agreements that for decades deeply upended democracy and separation of powers, the environment and the world economy, the world of work, the social state and the self-governed legal communities. There could be fair trade, less poverty, fewer “competition losers” and fewer “economic refugees” from Africa.

The so-called “association agreement” between the EU and the Ukraine was nothing but an (unfair) bilateral free trade agreement dictated by the EU that ignores interest adjustment with Russia and accordingly first triggered the conflict in the East.


The transatlantic free trade agreement (TTIP) should create the “largest free trade zone of the world” with 800 million people (12% of the world population), 60% of the worldwide gross domestic product, 40% of world trade and a daily exchange of goods and services amounting to 2 billion euros. The goal of this gigantic project is to dictate trade conditions to the remaining trade zones of the world with its “remaining” 88% of the world population. In this agreement, corporations are put on the same level as states or even set above states. Private commercial interests are not only equated with public interests but even weighted heavier and secured by means of “investment protection.’ Business risks are shifted to citizens and taxpayers.

To that end, all trade secrets which also include democracy and its critical citizens should be removed. Concrete negotiations have been underway since the middle of 2013. Now after the 10 negotiation rounds in the summer of 2015, negotiations are stuck or jammed so the desired conclusion at the end of 2015 is moved to the far distance. Chancellor Merkel as a “driver of the agreement” – as she describes herself – energetically urges observing the time limit. She wants to “enforce the TTIP against all resistances” because TTIP is just as important “as the founding of the EU or the double NATO resolution.” What role remains for democratically elected parliaments like the German Bundestag that transferred sole competence for trade questions to the EU commission with approval of sections 206 and 207 of the 2007 Lisbon treaty – and is now surprised that removal of national parliaments in the TTIP is criticized?


In the summer of 2015, the EU Parliament passed a resolution that formulated the so-called “red lines” for the TTIP. The 13 export committees of the EU Parliament had 900 change requests. However these are legally informal recommendations. Earlier the German minister of economics Gabriel together with the unions formulated 14 points as a “red line” that was long violated. They are waste paper, much to the annoyance of the unions, party leftists and the SPD base.

Critical proposals on TTIP are now presented to the SPD Party convention. The chairperson of the SPD Basic Values commission, Gesine Schwan, sees state sovereignty endangered by TTIP and even fears the privatization of democratic decision-making processes. “Regulatory cooperation councils” could scrutinize bills for their profit-diminishing trade barriers before the parliamentarians grapple with them.

The cooperation councils – consisting of US and EU officials together with business lobbyists – should make the agreements legally binding (as international law treaties) instead of parliaments. These international law agreements then stand above the legal authority of the EU and above the national laws that are adjusted to them. This is also explicitly true for the regional and communal planes according to the negotiation mandate…

These private groups replace the legislature. Instead of the executive, lobbyists in the EU commission and in the ministries write the laws and private arbitration courts judge instead of the judiciary. The “consultative” as the fourth branch (citizens and the media) is eliminated by secrecy.

This is the complete abolition of the democratic separation of powers, a quasi “coup from above.”


The “Transparency Offensive” promised by the EU trade commissioner Malmstrom (incomplete and selective publication instead of secrecy-mongering) was a temporary cosmetic change. This offensive is now ended through the re-introduction of reinforced secrecy. Not even Bundestag delegates and government representatives could see the secret documents from the negotiations in closed reading rooms. Private arbitration courts recently rejected by the EU Parliament as the main critical point in the TTIP are now accepted as reformed “arbitration courts light”…


Therefore the civil society in Europe has mobilized in an unparalleled way. The quorum of a European Citizens Initiative was far surpassed with almost 2.7 million signatures Europe-wide (in September 2015). However the initiative is not recognized by the EU commission. The signature campaign will end at the imminent mass demonstration in Berlin on October 10 where at least 50,000 if not 100,000 protestors are expected.

Meanwhile more than 200 local communities in Germany have passed critical or negative resolutions on the TTIP, CETA and TISA through their city councils and local councils including eleven provincial capitals including Koln as the first city of millions. In France, 350 local communities and 250 local communities in Austria have spoken out against the TTIP & Co. Many information-, enlightenment- and discussion events on TTIP & Co. have occurred in every city in Germany and other countries. A majority of the population is against this agreement according to polls.

There are half dozen expert opinions of constitutional- and international law scholars that validate the unconstitutional contents and procedures in TTIP & Co. A constitutional complaint is being prepared against CETA – whose negotiation mandate has not yet been officially published, only leaked by the Tagesschau newspaper. In the Bundestag, there are over 300 small and large amendments to the free trade agreements as well as a petition with tens of thousands of signatures. Nearly all established institutions oppose the TTIP & Co. alongside the unions and associations (welfare- and social associations, professional organizations, environmental- and consumer associations) and middle class organizations since middle class enterprises are also among the losers. In addition, cultural actors, the catholic and evangelical churches, lawyer associations and constitutional lawyers, doctors and the opposition parties are critical. The governments in Berlin and Brussels have not understood what is brewing in social resistance.


With all vigilance toward the TTIP, we may not all stare at the snake like the paralyzed rabbit. A much more dangerous, more secret and more far-reaching agreement named TISA went into the 13th negotiation round in the backrooms of the Australian embassy in Geneva in the summer of 2015 and outstrips the TTIP. The US is in charge for 51 participating states in trade with services (including public services) and outside the WTO- and EU rules. TISA should be the successor to the 1995 GATS agreement. The EU domestic market is three-quarters a service market and the EU-US market is almost half a service market. The public tender- and procurement market is a market in the billions for private interests. Water, health and education are the three great growth markets. Trillions are promised in the speculative financial markets for privatization in these areas. In the negotiations, the EU urges arbitration courts. A re-

communalization prohibition should be in force for once-privatized services. According to the will of the US, the finished agreement and its contents should be published five years after taking affect to avoid protests against the secret negotiations. Therefore the materials for the Anti-TTIP protest on October 10 in Berlin should be clearly against the TISA and not only decry the TTIP and CETA!


The predecessor to the EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, the neoliberal Belgian Karel de Gucht who was responsible for the TTIP, clearly let the cat out of the bag. “We are working on a geo-political agreement. Genetic engineering and chlorinated chicken are marginal. The goal is to adjust regulations, standards and laws in nearly all areas of the economy and the public sector,” he said. “The TTIP involves the most far-reaching changes of societies in Europe – far beyond all past trade agreements.” “The political and economic leadership for the next generation is uppermost.”

Thus un-elected trade commissioners prepare a coup from above – in a secret mission with hundreds of lobby organizations and transnational corporations (the Bertelsmann media empire is officially included as an expert, promoter and adviser for TTIP). A social paradigm shift without public discourse and violating democratic rules of the game is planned. Our elected politicians should not be involved as accomplices and henchmen. This must be clear at the Berlin protest!

The former UN special ambassador Jean Ziegler writes: “Mammoth corporations have more power than emperors and popes ever had. TTIP is the final struggle. I hope it does not come. If TTIP passes, the crucial battle is lost.”


Pia Eberhardt, A Brave New International Partnership, October 2013, published by Seattle-to-Brussels Network, 32pp

John Hillary, The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, February 2014, 42 pp

Katya Kipping, “What I Didn’t Read in the TTIP Reading Room,” February 7, 2016

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