Pots and Pans Noise Protest Against Questionable Role European Union at WTO Services Negotiations
Main entrance Justus Lipsius Building, Wetstraat 175, Brussels,
(metro Schuman), Wednesday 26 June 2002, 14:00 p.m.
On 26 June, activists from Belgium and neighbouring countries will stage a noisy protest in front of the building of the Council of Ministers of the European Union in Brussels. The protest will be modelled after the Argentinian 'cacerolazos', and is directed against the non-transparent and non-democratic way in which the European Union is handling the negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on liberalisation of trade in services (GATS).
The GATS negotiations are not restricted to the (further) liberalisation of financial and professional services, like accountancy, assurance, banking, consultancy and IT-services, but extend to essential public services like culture (libraries, public broadcasting), education, health, public transport and water. At the WTO summit in Qatar, last November, WTO member states agreed to submit detailed lists of requests for services liberalisation in other WTO member states before 30 June 2002.
A few days before that deadline, on Wednesday 26 June, the so-called "Committee 133 ad hoc services" will meet in the building of the Council of Ministers in Brussels. During that meeting, which is closed for the public, the services experts from the EU Member States and the European Commission will try to agree over a hundred EU request lists.
In April, several dozen of draft EU request lists were leaked to NGOs. These documents were drafted by the European Commission, but have to be approved by the EU Member States in the Committee 133. The leaked documents contain controversial liberalisation proposals to countries like India, Malaysia and Colombia, targeting a.o. those countries' energy and water sectors. The leaked documents sparked a heated debate, both within the European Union and in the countries concerned.
On 7 May 2002, over 90 organisations from several EU Member States sent an open letter to the European Commission and the EU Member State governments. In this open letter, the organisations demand full transparency on the EU request lists and the EU's handling of the GATS negotiations. The letter denounces the close cooperation between the European Commission and the services industry in the preparation of the request lists. It also asks for a moratorium on the GATS negotiations to enable a full assessment of impacts of services liberalisation and an open debate over the role of public services and the desirability of further liberalisation of services.
Until today, the European Commission and the EU Member States have not replied to the open letter. Instead of increasing transparency and withdrawing the draft requests, the European Commission has stepped up secrecy and tries to get a quick Member State approval for the proposed request lists, leaving no room for proper intra-governmental and parliamentary consultation.
Eric Goeman, woordvoerder