TTIP-Update: Success in the Plenary in Strasbourg

By Georg Jürgens, July 2015

Given the numerous protests against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), it is not surprising that the public debate has been reduced mainly to the pros and cons of such an agreement.

When the European Parliament adopted its recommendations to the European Commission on the Trade Agreement (TTIP) with the US on 8th July 2015 with 436 votes in favour, 241 against and 32 abstentions, media mainly reported on whether the adoption of an amendment calling for replacing the ISDS system with “a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states” is truly the end of the highly controversial ISDS-mechanism or just a light version of ISDS. On the other hand, little attention was paid to the effects of TTIP on individual economical or societal sectors.

This is in stark contrast to the debate going on in Brussels. Hardly anyone working on EU-related matters could avoid being involved in the debate on TTIP. Most NGOs, consultancies or lobby-groups are affected by the negotiations in one way or the other. Even education is no exemption. Despite announcements of the European Commission to exclude “services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”, many educational stakeholders had been worried what TTIP might imply for education and training. ECSWE, the European Forum for Freedom in Education (effe) and others were deeply concerned by the possible consequences of the negotiations for independent schools in Europe.

Today, we are happy to report that the controversial vote in Strasbourg last week marks the end of successful concerted lobby efforts of ECSWE, effe and EUCIS-LLL in favour of a far reaching carve-out of educational services from the scope of TTIP. With a majority of only 53 %, the European Parliament voted in favour of an amendment calling the European Commission

“to ensure with a general clause the right of EU Member States to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all educational and cultural services which work on a non-profit basis and/or receive public funding to any degree or state support in any form, and to ensure that privately funded foreign providers meet the same quality and accreditation requirements as domestic providers”.

The amendment we successfully lobbied for on CULT-Committee level eventually made it into the final text of the plenary.

The Parliament began working on its initiative report in early February 2015. The final text is the result of a joint initiative of 15 Parliamentary Committees which gives concrete recommendations on the TTIP negotiations to the European Commission. On 16 April 2015, the Committee on Education and Culture (CULT) of the European Parliament voted on its contribution to the final text. ECSWE and effe had successfully proposed and promoted changes to the original text, which were then recommended to all Members of the CULT Committee by EUCIS-LLL and adopted with a large majority.

Despite an early success in CULT, the final decision in the plenary came as a total surprise. Instead of taking up the wording of the CULT proposal, the leading INTA Committee adopted a compromise amendment with a weaker and more general wording:

“to build on the joint statement reflecting the negotiators’ clear commitment to exclude current and future Services of General Interest as well as Services of General Economic Interest from the scope of application of TTIP, (including but not limited to water, health, social services, social security systems and education), to ensure that national and if applicable local authorities retain the full right to introduce, adopt, maintain or repeal any measures with regards to the commissioning, organisation, funding and provision of public services as provided in the Treaties as well as in the EU’s negotiating mandate ; this exclusion should apply irrespective of how the services are provided and funded;”

Only thanks to Members of the Greens/EFA Group, who retabled the original text to the plenary and thanks to the unexpected support of four other parliamentary groups, we may now celebrate a real victory for all independent non-profit schools in Europe.

This joint lobby initiative is a good example for the successful cooperation between ECSWE, effe and EUCIS-LLL, which hopefully may be extended in the future.

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