“Comprehensive and detailed further scrutiny of CETA must now be undertaken by a number of other Oireachtas committees”

Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has called for other Oireachtas Committees to undertake scrutiny of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) following the split-decision of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs on the need for further scrutiny. 

Seven members of the Committee reported that “there are real and unresolved concerns for the implications of implementing ICS in respect of sovereignty and public policy of member states” and “resolutions to ratify CETA should not be presented to Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann, so as to enable a vital wide ranging national political inquiry and debate across all sections of society on the implications of ratification.” 

Senator Higgins said: “Following the publication of the Committee’s report it is clear that CETA needs further scrutiny and examination, especially in light of the impact ratification will have on public policy in Ireland and other EU member states.” 

“Scrutiny of CETA is currently on the work programme for the Committee on Environment and Climate Action, the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Committee on Justice. These Committees – and indeed other Oireachtas Committees must be given the opportunity to scrutinise the impacts of CETA and the Investor Court System (ICS).”

“CETA and ICS have implications for Ireland which reach far beyond the scope of any single Oireachtas Committee. TDs and Senators must be given the opportunity to consider the regulatory ‘chill effect’ created by ICS will impact public policy in respect of specific areas such as climate, health, housing, and public finances.”

“Fear of litigation will prevent successive governments from enacting vital public policy measures and regulations on issues such as the climate and biodiversity crises, the housing crisis and workers’ rights.”

“The tide is going out on trade agreements which contain investor-state arbitration mechanisms such as CETA. The recent decision on the Energy Charter Treaty and the lack of investor-state arbitration mechanisms in new trade agreements such as the USMCA, clearly demonstrates that governments across the world are recognising the threat to regulation that such mechanism pose. If CETA is fully ratified by all member states it will take thirty years to exit. Comprehensive and detailed scrutiny from multiple Committees policy perspectives is the least the public can expect when it comes to a decision which such far reaching implications.”

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Senator Higgins joins EPF colleagues in calling on governments to ensure sexual and reproductive rights are protected during the COVID-19 emergency

Even during a crisis, women have sexual and reproductive healthcare needs which cannot wait. Governments should be supporting access to essential SRHR services - unfortunately some are actively using this as a chance to block it. As a member of the the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, I have been pressing governments across Europe to actively support access to SHRR in their own countries and across the wider world. Last week we produced a report on ’Sexual and Reproductive Rights during the COVID-19 pandemic’ which described how many women and girls are being left without essential medical services such as contraception and abortion care, HIV and STI testing, reproductive cancer screenings, and adequate pre and post-natal healthcare.

An IPPF survey showed 5.633 community-based care clinics closing across 64 countries, with African countries being the most heavily impacted. EU member states should be giving humanitarian and health support and including SHRR. In terms of particularly time-sensitive healthcare such as abortion, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Portugal have made provisions for remote support of medical abortions, while Poland and Romania seem to be using this crisis to undermine women’s access to rights and reproductive healthcare.

Amid this crisis we have also seen a huge increase in sexual and gender-based violence, an issue that all governments must address head on.