Declaration of Molenbeek – October 29, 2016
International trade agreements remain a very opaque nebula that few people are aware of, often bargained behind closed doors under pressure from lobbyists working for multinationals. For the sake of democratie transparency, protection of our achievements and giving the citizen a more prominent role in decision-making, on 29/10/2016, citizens gathered in Molenbeek to reflect on the relationship between Values and the purpose of international exchanges, with the aim of reflecting on methods, means of drawing up such treaties while guaranteeing the necessary protections for citizens, the environment and good democracy within the European Union.
The aim is to make democracy within the European Union and its Member States more participatory and citizen.
Three main points were raised and we ask:
1- Transparency: towards a more enlightened democracy
The principle of democratic transparency comes down to the idea that democracy flourishes in proportion to all information circulating unhindered within it, in order to be potentially made accessible to all. It is therefore requested to:
- Make all old, new and future negotiations transparent: since these exchanges are everyone’s business, it is therefore normal that everyone should be kept informed of the standards and developments of each project already applied or to come;
The negotiation of free trade agreements is by definition transversal, so it must be done by involving all relevant sectors (such as energy, environment, transport, etc.) in a transparent and democratic way, the procedures followed in drawing up the European Directives. This involves all Member States, with consultation of the national parliaments as well as a European citizens’ consultation;
- Broaden this transparency in order to exercise democratic control in the fight against tax havens, on finance, …;
- Empower key institutions such as the European Parliament, the Court of Auditors, National Constitutional Courts, State Councils and European and national judicial institutions;
- Give civil society a key role in monitoring compliance with procedures, as well as representatives of parties, trade unions and all civil society organizations;
- Create independent media, not multinationals. The speed of social networks could be the solution. Above all, source verification is paramount.
2- Protection: guaranteeing the achievements and the degree of legislation protecting our socio-economic, health and environmental model
2.1) Our current values were not acquired in one day, our ancestors fought for it and we are still fighting to keep them. It is therefore essential to defend what we already have and to guarantee protection and safeguard of our social gains. We advocate that:
- The precautionary principle (art. 191 TFEU) should be taken into account, which envisages trade in a defensive and non-offensive manner: due to its precaution and prudence, sustainable development will always be a priority;
- The need for a high standard of standards, guaranteed at EU levels, including the possible increase in social and environmental standards. These agreements must respect public law (national and European) and the Constitution of the signatory states. They can in no way restrict the sovereignty of States and their capacity to legislate, including in fields not yet in existence;
- Introduce “firewall” clauses (emergency exit) into future treaties if fundamental rights are not respected.
2.2) Think about trade agreements smartly, so as to establish smart protectionism, with the aim of limiting unnecessary imports by:
- Promoting and protecting the internal market and local short circuits, thereby small imports and thus pollution; recognizing and valuing our smallest businesses and active farms; valuing the know-how of producers, food self-sufficiency (protecting local agriculture) when it makes sense (sometimes not, wheat in the Arabian desert);
- Reflecting the cost of products in the environmental cost of the production of the property, revisit ecotaxe with a true environmental impact assessment;
- Achieving the objectives of COP21. By assessing the climate and environmental impact of trade agreements and introducing a mechanism to offset additional greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the implementation of such agreements;
- Introducing clauses allowing a State to leave treaties easily;
- Safeguarding our public services.
2.3) It is also necessary to strengthen the legal framework by respecting the values of fraternity and democracy at all levels, to establish a certain security against the multinationals and their unscrupulous leaders by:
- Imposing a legal framework for lobbying and a budgetary limit to a lobbying campaign;
- Introducing a control by workers on the management of their company, for a better redistribution of profits between Capital and Labor, reinvesting part of the profits in the real economy, imposing limits on dividends (max 2%) and Applying anti-trust laws;
- Requiring tax harmonization, with simplified taxes and a uniform rate based on the share of turnover by countries, to tax transnational corporations and financial transactions, in order to discourage financial speculation and allow a part of the income generated to benefit the community;
- Demanding social harmonization, introducing clauses prohibiting social dumping;
- Funding a mixed fund to enable civil society to defend itself against violations of fundamental rights;
- Implementing a large-scale citizen audit on grants awarded by sector and by structure;
- Enacting laws that allow citizens to boycott brands and report on their human, social and environmental rights violations;
- Use the principle of food sovereignty to formulate new rules for multilateral trade in food commodities. The EU must change the CAP and its market regulation tools. The abolition of all speculation on agricultural products. The food codex is the benchmark for food safety;
- Setting standards accessible by small structures, different from large firms, such as recognition;
- Recognition by the public authorities of participatory guarantee schemes (SPGs) desired by local producers;
- Each international treaty, to conform to sustainable development objectives (SDOs or SDGs) which include 17 goals and 169 targets;
- Introducing single payment entitlements per agricultural asset, not per hectare, as is currently the case;
2.4) It is necessary to introduce controls and penalties within these treaties in order to protect as much as possible the values we want to defend. So we want to:
- Establish control bodies at national, European and international level independent of the WTO that defend the notion of general interest rather than sectoral or particular interests;
- Enable existing measures at the WTO level to operate, such as safeguard clauses rarely mentioned by States;
- Recognize and punish the notion of ecocide;
- Developing political sanctions at all possible levels of power;
- Introduce financial sanctions on a prorata basis, by allowing subsidies to be recovered, or by halting financing for certain sectors, or by requiring economic actors to finance repairs, even if some of their capital is confiscated;
- Enable penal sanctions: this requires knowledge of existing legal mechanisms, simplification of procedures, case studies…;
- Have the opportunity to dissolve boards of directors in outlaw multinationals, and prevent them from exercising other mandates, by making multinational executives and board members legally responsible, with the possibility of individual legal proceedings against them;
- Prohibit outlaw multinationals from introducing themselves as potential candidates for public procurement.
2.5) The role of the citizen and the consumer is paramount in order for international treaties to be in line with what people want. It is necessary to:
- To make consumers aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment;
- Make knowledge of access to justice procedures available and better information to facilitate recourse;
- Raising awareness and training of parliamentarians on citizen issues in free trade agreements.
3- Stronger citizen representation
More and more we are seeing a questioning of the European way of functioning and governance, so another form of democratic participation should be put in place. It is fundamental that everyone takes their place in democratic participation in the project of living together.
3.1) First of all, we must realize that nothing is definitively acquired (democracy, our fundamental rights…). It is therefore necessary to make the citizen responsible for political, economic and environmental life. For this we propose different measures:
- The Citizen doesn’t know his democratic rights and feels overwhelmed by events. Yet he has power!
- Revisit our education system, give more freedom to professors and teach early on democracy, citizenship, the exercise of free will and criticism to our children. Teach the fraternity that will engender solidarity and finally freedom;
- Access and creation of information must be fostered to be active and participatory politically through education, both primary and extra-curricular, in order to combat ignorance. It is necessary to raise awareness, mobilize young people to interest them in political life;
- There is a need to multiply local and citizen initiatives through citizen workshops, door-to-door campaigns and popular courses open to all. Create continuing education for citizens on politics;
- Idea of door-to-door by committed citizens to inform ordinary citizens and to make sure that they are interested not only in their local environment but also in the major European subjects;
- Develop participatory democracy, starting at the local level, and regain control over the economy, notably by developing local currencies.
3.2) It is by being sensitized that the citizen can change his behavior on a social, political and environmental level. He can therefore realize that if he has rights, he also has duties. Thus every citizen must be aware of the consequences of his behavior by:
- Establishing a compulsory civic service to sensitize and participate in local, regional and national political life;
- Being aware of responsible, sustainable and informed consumption in order to reduce over-consumption, the problem of waste and fight against the pressures. This to know how to carry out his purchases by denouncing the bad practices of the multinationals on the packaging or by a label to be affixed;
- Developing the Consumer Action Class, thus having a right of restitution on behalf of all consumers.
3.3) Concerning the means of action, several of them have to be developed in order to make the European citizen more present on the political scene:
- Make more popular consultations and referendums; voting is a fundamental tool in the exercise of democracy; all citizens must be made aware of the need to vote for their voices;
- Give retroactive effect to the referendum. When an agreement is signed, the referendum would make it possible to consult the civil society after the fact, to give it time to be informed;
- Minimum citizen signatures for candidates to be eligible. This would make them accountable to their constituents;
- Importance of citizen advocacy to give people the power to express themselves, and citizen lobbying that can compete against the multinationals and political actors;
- Creation of a citizens’ committee and a citizens’ parliament to control the government.
From Molenbeek, citizens gathered in World-Café on 29/10 decided to launch, through this Declaration, a message addressed to decision-makers to ask to stop thinking only of the national and particular selfish interests of multinational companies and to think, on the other hand, of the general interest of the planet and the well-being of all its inhabitants.