Veto powers

A Recipe for Discord

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Countries and even regions within the European Union can use their veto to block E.U. policy, which in a time of rising populism could cause tensions.

  • Facts


    • The European Union and Canada signed the CETA free-trade deal on Sunday after a delay.
    • The Belgian region of Wallonia, which had a veto power over Belgium signing off CETA, had blocked the deal.
    • It relented after last-minute negotiations and amendments.
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Signature of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (center) with European leaders Donald Tusk (l) and Jean-Claude Juncker. Source: DPA

CETA, the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, is signed. Finally, and against all odds.

The process that culminated in Sunday’s agreement in Brussels reveals how utterly dysfunctional the E.U. has become. Wallonia, a region in Belgium with 3.5 million inhabitants, blew the whole agreement off last week, claiming it could not support CETA in its final form. Since the accord had been under negotiation for seven years, one would think that there were plenty of options available to influence the shape of the deal somewhat earlier.

Just to be clear: There is nothing wrong with voicing concerns or asking for more transparency. But that is very different from holding 500 million European citizens and 36 million Canadians hostage to further one’s personal political ambitions, as was the case with Walloon Minister-President Paul Magnette.

In fact, there is no need for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to cater to rising populism in the U.S. and promise to push back against America’s trade deals. After all, Brussels is certainly in no position to seal the planned TTIP trade agreement with Washington given the current shape of the E.U.

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