Irish Parliament approves EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in spite of opposition

Justice For Colombia News | on: Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bad news for the campaign against the EU-Colombia Free Trade agreement as the Irish Parliament voted yesterday to approve the FTA signed between the European Union and Colombia. The agreement raised considerable concerns amongst human rights and trade union organisations who viewed the signing of an agreement as irresponsible whilst Colombia continues to experience the most severe anti-union violence of anywhere in the world. Indeed Justice for Colombia led the campaign in the European Union which saw the entire European Labour party vote against the deal.

The EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was initially drawn up by the European Commission in March 2010. It met resistance in the European Parliament as the trade unions and Justice for Colombia took their concerns to MEPs, this led to a resolution being added to the agreement in June 2012 which called on Colombia to meet specific human rights and labour rights conditions. As Justice for Colombia said at the time however, the lack of any truly binding mechanisms to hold Colombia to account has meant that this resolution is little more than a positive gesture. The agreement was voted in by the European Parliament on 11 December 2012 and came into practice on 1 August 2013. At the same time however, each EU Member State has had to approve the Agreement in its own Parliament – last December 61 MPs voted against the Agreement as it passed through the House of Commons.

Even though the agreement passed through the Dail in Ireland yesterday, Sinn Fein voiced their strong opposition to the agreement. Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, described the Government’s support for the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia as a travesty that is ill-timed and will undermined societal change.

“Sinn Féin opposed this Agreement in the European Parliament and we opposed it in the Dáil today. We oppose the timing, the content, and the lack of viable human rights safeguards and mechanisms within this Agreement.

“Colombia continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist or human rights activist, and the human rights provisions in this FTA are crucially not robust enough and will not deliver safety for activists.

“Colombia is the world leader in ignoring regulations regarding human rights that it actually signs up to in international agreements.

“While the Government may sight human rights provisions in the Agreement, crucially, no impact assessment around the implementation of this agreement on human rights has ever been done.

“A recent US Senate report on the US Free Trade Agreement with Colombia states very clearly that labour rights have actually deteriorated since the passing of that agreement and warns other trade agreements to really carefully re-consider how human rights can be enhanced and protected.

“It is clear the EU has not done that with this Agreement.

“For all the talk of human rights provisions being far-reaching the agreement provides no means of compellability on parties to respect those rights.

“The Dáil had a real chance to stand up for human rights today.

“This FTA needs to be passed by all the national parliaments of EU Members States. If it is rejected by one it collapses.

“When the FTA came before the EU Parliament Labour MEPs voted against it. Today Labour TDs ensured that it passed through the Dáil and sadly the Government stood in favour of big business and against human rights, justice, equality, and fairness, and supported this counterproductive FTA.”

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