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Free trade pact before the end: Parliament in Vienna approves EU-Mercosur agreement

2019-09-19T09:54:25.499Z

TIME ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates



Vienna (dpa) - Against the planned trade agreement of the EU with the South American Mercosur states comes now resistance from Austria. After much criticism, for example from France and Ireland, the European Parliament voted in Vienna in the EU subcommittee against the agreement.

The competent Austrian ministers are therefore called upon to reject the agreement at EU level. According to a speaker of the European Parliament, the vote of the committee has a binding effect; Austria could thus single-handedly prevent the agreement. The EU Council of Ministers would have to accept the trade agreement unanimously.

The decision was made in the middle of the election campaign in Austria. Surprisingly, the members of the ÖVP agreed to the motion, only the liberal Neos voted against it. After the break of the right-wing conservative government of former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP), a new parliament will be elected in Austria on 29 September. At present, there is an expert cabinet in Vienna, which manages the country in the first place.

With the Mercosur Agreements agreed at the end of June, the European Union and four South American countries want to build the largest free trade area in the world. This should save companies in the EU every year four billion euros in tariffs and boost exports. The deal must, however, be approved by the national parliaments of the member states. A draft agreement is not yet available, so far there is only a political agreement in principle.

Because of the fires in the Amazon and the policy of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had demanded among others SPD and Green politicians in Germany to stop the agreement. Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU), however, had pleaded for adherence to the new free trade agreement.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz at the end of August, France and Ireland threatened with a veto in the face of the fires if Brazil did not pledge its greater protection of the forest. Also, according to "Spiegel", Luxemburg declared "to put the procedure on hold".

Mercosur includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The negotiations have been going on since 2000. The Confederation of Mercosur, with a population of more than 260 million people, is one of the world's major economic areas. The EU even has more than 512 million inhabitants.

In the Austrian National Council, the SPÖ motion for rejection was approved by all parties except the Neos. Somewhat surprisingly was the approval of the ÖVP party leader and ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The former ÖVP Minister of Agriculture, Elisabeth Köstinger, was very pleased to see that the agreement was blocked. "In South America, rainforests are being burnt down to create grazing land to send cheap beef to Europe. We reject that from a deep conviction that the EU can not and must not reward this with a trade agreement, "Köstinger said.

Since the breach of the right-wing conservative government in Austria as a result of the publication of the "Ibiza video", an expert government is leading the country. There is no solid coalition in parliament, and the parties are currently making many decisions with changing alliances.

After the parliamentary elections on 29 September, the newly assembled National Council could overturn the vote on Wednesday evening. Due to the broad ranks of four parties and the approval of the ÖVP, which is likely to win the election clearly, but this is not necessarily assumed. However, ÖVP leader Kurz initially did not comment on the vote in the parliamentary committee.

The criticism of possible negative consequences of the agreement for the climate and environmental protection considers the EU Commission responsible for the negotiations unjustified. She pointed out that the proposed agreement would oblige the contracting parties to comply with environmental standards and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Source: zeit

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