While they are being negotiated, people are told not to interfere and when final contracts are put on the table, it's too late. The Commission's legal position effectively prevents any future ECIs on international agreements.
This morning the Stop TTIP coalition, consisting of over 300 civil society groups from across Europe, have filed a lawsuit against the European Commission at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The lawsuit challenges a decision made by the Commission to block a 'European Citizen's Initiative' (ECI) on the controversial EU-USA trade deal known as TTIP, and a similar deal with Canada (CETA).
In September 2014 the European Commission was accused of "stifling citizens' voices" last September after it rejected a proposal to hold a 'European Citizens' Initiative' against the trade deals - on legally dubious grounds that betrayed a profound anti-democratic bias in the organisation.
The Initiative, which had been launched by trade unions, social justice campaigns, human rights groups and consumer watchdogs, if successful would have forced the Commission to review its policy on the deals and to hold a hearing in the European parliament.
People are being told - don't interfere, until it's too late
Nick Dearden, the director of the World Development Movement, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit said: "It's disgraceful that the Commission is prepared to use such dirty tricks to attempt to stifle the million people across Europe who have voiced urgent concerns about TTIP and the way it is being negotiated.
"These people are rightly worried about the impact this far-reaching trade deal would have on vital public services, and hard-fought for legislation protecting labour rights and the environment."
Michael Efler, a representative of the ECI's citizens' committee said: "We are not only appealing for the sake of the Stop TTIP ECI, but also for future European Citizens' Initiatives. When it comes to the negotiation of international treaties, the European Commission wants to exclude citizens.
"While they are being negotiated, people are told not to interfere and when final contracts are put on the table, it's too late. The Commission's legal position effectively prevents any future ECIs on international agreements."
Second initiative gains 850,000 signatures in a month
Despite the rejection of the ECI, campaign groups and trade unions launched a second self-organised, unofficial petition in early October, which has already gathered more than 864,000 signatures in just over a month. It reads:
"We call on the institutions of the European Union and its member states to stop the negotiations with the USA on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and not to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada."
So far the Commission has continued to deny those voices a hearing, in favour of continuing to negotiate in secret. Around 50 people held a demonstration today at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg against both the trade deals and the Commission's rejection of the ECI.
Blanche Weber, a member of the ECI's citizens committee who took part in the protest said: "The gap between European politics and people is to be overcome - according to the rhetoric of politicians. However, the discrepancy between this spin and actual politics is a disgrace.
"Brussels' arrogance towards Europe's citizens is unacceptable! We will continue to defend ourselves against TTIP and CETA - also for the sake of European democracy."
More information: Stop TTIP.
Sign the Citizens Initiative: Stop TTIP.
Also on The Ecologist:
- 'TTIP - challenging the European Commission's unlawful intransigence' by Mary Fitzgerald & Michael Efler.
- 'TTIP threatens EU nations with corporate weapons of mass destruction' by Kevin Albertson.