Interview with CNN Greece
You are the chairwoman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee. How long is the Brexit process going to last, and how big will the short-term costs be for the EU? You have also said that “the rights of their citizens (of the UK) would be a red line in the negotiations.” What does this red line mean in terms of political positions and actions?
No one knows how long the Brexit process will take. The only certainty is that, if no agreement is reached before 29 March 2019 and no prolongation of the deadline is agreed by the UK on one side and the 27 on the other side, by 29 March 2019 the UK will cease being a Member State of the EU (Art. 50(3) TEU).
However reaching an agreement on the withdrawal may also not be the end of the process, as an agreement on the new relationship should also be negotiated by the EU27 and the U.K. and this could take years to be completed. Until then, both parties to the negotiation may agree on a transitional regime which, realistically, can only be he prolongation of the current (or part of it) EU legal status, otherwise, the negotiation of a transitional agreement could also take years and reveal almost as much cumbersome as the negotiations on the future relationship.
The European Parliament has been saying since the beginning of the process that the protection of the rights of citizens, both the European citizens living in the UK and the British citizens living in the remaining 27 Member States, is a fundamental condition to deliver its consent to the withdrawal agreement (without which there is no withdrawal agreement, according to Article 50(2) TEU). The EP insists that those citizens, as well as their current and future families, keep the whole set of rights they enjoy under EU legislation once the withdrawal takes effect and that similar mechanisms to the existing ones be in place in order to guarantee their effective implementation. This was the position repeated in the resolutions of the Parliament, adopted on 5 April 2017 and on 3 October 2017.
In almost all Europe we experience a rise of the far right, that may soon be in the Austrian government as well and in many cases imposes its agenda. Do you believe that this rise will continue in the future? Does the momentum of the far right threaten the constitutional freedoms and the cohesion of the EU?
The rise of extremist forces may indeed put into question the fundamental values of the EU, enshrined in Art. 2 TEU. The Treaty provides for some mechanisms to protect those values. The Charter of Fundamental Rights binds EU institutions and Member States when they are implementing Union law. Judicial mechanisms exist allowing the ECJ to intervene in order to protect fundamental rights. Moreover, Art. 7 TEU provides a mechanism that can be used in case there is a clear risk or the existence of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Art. 2. In case of the determination of the existence of such a breach, there may be a suspension of certain rights of that Member State, including its right of vote in the Council.
Europe is in the process of the full implementation of CETA. Will that boost the eurozone economy and what do you respond to its critics? Do we have to expect a progress in the TTIP negotiations in the coming months? Do you think TTIP is necessary for Europe?
CETA, as any other trade deal, is designed to boost economic opportunities for European companies and its citizens. In fact, 98 % of Canadian duties on EU exports of goods are abolished, EU companies have improved access to Canada’s procurement markets, and 143 EU geographical indications are newly protected in Canada. This will greatly boost our mutual trade and the ability of EU companies to seek new avenues for business.
Regarding the TTIP negotiations let me recall the words of the EU Commissioner for Trade Malmström who said that negotiations with the US are in the freezer after the election of President Trump. I do not think that this situation has changed. The Trump administration’s views on trade differ fundamentally from the EU’s approach to global trade, so it will be difficult to reconcile these positions in the near future. The US has threatened to put tariffs on some EU products and investigate EU trading practices, which does not inspire faith in the idea that a mutual deal is on the table soon. Further, the US is currently very much focused on the renegotiations of the NAFTA agreement, so it will be difficult for any EU-US trade deal to be negotiated soon. I do believe, however, that there may be room to agree to trade deals on a sectoral basis.
I have said this before and I repeat my conviction that in the fast-changing world of international trade, we need to continue working on a rules-based system with our closest trading partners. The global economic centre is shifting towards Asia, and if the EU and the US want to remain competitive in a tough economic environment, we need to seek open markets elsewhere. Our most important trading partner is the US, and from an economic perspective such a trade deal makes most sense.