On Thursday, the national parliament approved the draft assent to the commercial treaty between the European Union and Canada. The agreement is better known by its English acronym CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).
The majority voted in favour of the text, the opposition voted against, all except for the French speaking centre-right party (the Humanist Democratic Centre) which abstained.
The parliament is the county’s second assembly to approve the treaty after the Flemish parliament. However, the saga surrounding this highly controversial treaty is not over as it must still receive the backing of the other five parliaments within Belgium.
In October 2016, the Walloon PS-French speaking centre-right coalition led the revolt against the agreement. The whole of Europe was watching Belgium after Wallonia refused to delegate its statutory power to sign the agreement to the federal government, to enable the federal government to approve CETA on Belgium’s behalf. The move thus prevented the immediate conclusion of the treaty which all other EU member states had by then agreed to.
After two weeks of intense bargaining between the Canadian, European and Belgian authorities, the majority of fears raised had however been removed.
As well as an additional agreement with Canada and 35 joint statements with the European Commission, an internal agreement between the federal government and the governments of the various federated entities had been concluded to end the crisis.
As part of this intra-Belgian agreement, it had been agreed that the federal government, on behalf of Belgium, should request an opinion of the ECJ. The concern specifically relates to the compatibility of the mechanism for dispute resolution between investors and states, contained in the treaty, with European law. However, the court’s decision on the issue is still awaited.