Gutachten des Gerichtshofs vom 16. Mai 2017 zum Freihandelsabkommen EU-Singapur

Die Verhandlungen über das Freihandelsabkommen zwischen der EU und Singapur wurden im März 2010 aufgenommen. Im Oktober 2014 schlossen die EU und Singapur die Verhandlungen über ein umfassendes Freihandelsabkommen ab. Am 4. März 2015 beschloss die Kommission, den Gerichtshof der Europäischen Union (EuGH) um eine Stellungnahme zur Zuständigkeit der EU für die Unterzeichnung und Ratifizierung des Freihandelsabkommens mit Singapur zu ersuchen. Mit dem Gutachten (16. Mai 2017) sorgt der Gerichtshof für Klarheit, da er erklärt, dass die Union über eine ausschließliche Zuständigkeit für fast alle Bestimmungen des Freihandelsabkommens EU-Singapur verfügt. Angesichts der Notwendigkeit, innerhalb einer angemessenen Frist konkrete Verhandlungsergebnisse zu erzielen, eröffnet die Entscheidung neue Möglichkeiten und politische Optionen, die umgesetzt werden sollten.

1. Wie wird sich das Gutachten des EuGH zur Verteilung der Zuständigkeiten zwischen der Europäischen Union und den Mitgliedstaaten beim Abschluss des Freihandelsabkommens zwischen der Europäischen Union und der Republik Singapur (Gutachten 2/15) der Kommission zufolge auf künftige Verhandlungsmandate für Handelsabkommen und die entsprechenden Ratifizierungsverfahren auswirken?

2. Wie wird die Kommission dafür sorgen, dass bei künftigen Verhandlungsmandaten eindeutig zwischen ausschließlichen Zuständigkeiten der EU und geteilten Zuständigkeiten unterschieden wird?

3. Wie wird die Kommission dafür sorgen, dass bei den Ratifizierungsverfahren zukünftiger Handelsabkommen der dem Gutachten des EuGH zu entnehmenden Verteilung der Zuständigkeiten Rechnung getragen wird?

Antwort

Mündliche Aussprache und Beantwortung durch Christos Stylianides: Madam President, I am here on behalf of my colleague Cecilia Malmström. About the many questions raised by my colleague, the Commission sought the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, to obtain clarity about the division of competences on trade and investment and to check if the EU could sign and conclude the FTA alone. The Court’s opinion provided this clarity in an unequivocal manner. Therefore, we have now a unique opportunity to put the governance of the EU trade policy on a more stable and effective footing, allowing the EU to remain a credible negotiating partner that can better deliver for citizens. Our objective is outlined in the Reflection Paper on Harnessing Globalisation according to which ‘the EU must be able not only to negotiate broad agreements to tackle a wide range of global issues, but also to ensure these agreements can be ratified and implemented’. Let me now proceed to your specific questions as already understood. The Court confirmed that the EU has exclusive competence for most matters that were included in the Singapore FTA, such as: trade in goods; trade in services, including transport; government procurement; intellectual property; competition; trade and sustainable development; Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) liberalisation, and the substantive standards of protection for FDI. The Court concluded that the competence is shared with the Member States for only two areas. First, non-direct investment, and second, Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) with regard to both direct and non-direct foreign investments. Therefore, and despite the majority of the agreement being considered as coming under the EU’s exclusive competence and the remaining parts as shared competence, the Court considered that the agreement as it stands cannot be concluded by the EU alone. This means that unless the FTA is modified, it cannot be ratified as EU-only, but would need to be presented as a mixed agreement and ratified by all national and, where appropriate, regional parliaments. The opinion gives us an opportunity to look afresh jointly with this House, the Council of course, and Member States, at ways to make EU decision-making for trade and investment policy more sound and efficient. This discussion will need to take into account the legal and political implications deriving from the Court’s opinion: in particular, we will need to respond to the questions as to whether we consider that the status quo, meaning a similar ratification process as in the case of the FTA with Canada (CETA) is sustainable, or not. Or should we rather use the clarity provided by this opinion to move to a more credible and efficient ratification process, taking into account that the EU has exclusive competence for the full scope of our new generation progressive trade and investment agreements but not for certain elements of investment protection and ISDS? How can we best respect the allocation of competences while presenting trade and investment agreements that are coherent and maximise the benefits for citizens? Last but not least, we will need to explain collectively that, whatever path may be chosen, the EU’s trade and investment policy decision-making process is, and will continue to be, a fully democratic one by the European Parliament and the representatives from the democratically elected governments of the Member States in the Council. Further to the proposals and actions made by the Commission to enhance the transparency of trade negotiations and to ensure the proper involvement of all stakeholders during the negotiations, we are keen to explore further ways to assist the Member States in strengthening the involvement of national parliaments early on in the process. Once our exchanges produce more clarity and consensus on these matters, we will be in a position to propose concrete steps related to the distinction between EU exclusive and shared competences in the ratification process of our free-trade agreements and the negotiating mandates that will be needed for future FTAs. (Interjection from Mr Lange: ‘When?’) Once. We will see!