Series: CEPS Commentary
Yesterday, Sunday October 30th, the EU and Canada finally signed the long-awaited Comprehensive and Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which had been in limbo for almost two weeks because the Belgian region of Wallonia refused to give its consent to the federal Belgian government to sign the deal. As explained in our previous CEPS Commentary last week, CETA was classified as a mixed agreement (a decision whose wisdom we dispute) and therefore requires not only the EU’s signature and ratification, but also those of the 28 member states. After a week full of political suspense and profiling, late-night negotiations at intra-Belgium level and informal contacts with and diplomatic pressure from the different EU institutions, Belgium’s prime minister Charles Michel could finally announce on Thursday that an agreement was reached with the Walloon government and that Belgium was able to sign CETA. In order the get the Walloons on board, an intra-Belgium Statement and a Joint Interpretive Instrument was negotiated. These documents were approved at the last-minute by COREPER on Thursday night and on Friday the Council approved, by fast-track writing procedure, the Council Decisions for signature and provisional application of CETA. This paved the way for the agreement’s signature yesterday at the EU-Canada Summit, referred to by President of the European Council Donald Tusk as “the most highly anticipated summit in recent memory”.
In addition to the Joint Interpretative Declaration (which has been agreed with the Canadian authorities), no less than 38(!) statements or declarations (including the intra-Belgium Statement) have been made by EU member states or institutions. This Commentary highlights the key elements of these documents and their legal and political implications for CETA’s ratification process.
The Joint Interpretative Instrument
The Joint Interpretative Instrument was already drafted earlier this month, together with the Canadian authorities, to accommodate some of the concerns of the CETA opponents. It was further tweaked over the last two weeks in the light of the Walloon ‘non’-vote on CETA. The instrument specifies how several provisions of CETA should be interpreted, but it does not alter the text of the agreement. Nevertheless, it is a legally binding document according to Article 31 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (as confirmed in the Instrument and several Statements of the Council) and will need to be taken into account by the Parties and members of the agreement’s Investment Tribunals during dispute-settlement procedures.