Civil society wants to monitor EU free trade agreements more closely

The EESC adopted at its January plenary session an opinion on strengthening the role of Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) in monitoring the implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed by the European Union. DAGs are already responsible for supervising the implementation of FTAs in the areas of sustainable development and labour standards, but the EESC wants to extend this monitoring role to all aspects of the agreements, including the core trade provisions.

The EESC believes that the participation of civil society in agreements of all types is essential, not only for monitoring purposes, but also to achieve their strategic aspirations. This must be done through a single civil society participation body which comprises both sides of the agreement. Alberto Mazzola, rapporteur of the opinion, pointed out that "the EU today faces an increasing demand for constructive dialogue with civil society on trade, as seen with CETA and TTIP, and DAGs are a great way to connect citizens with trade issues".

This enhanced role of DAGs should be accompanied by other provisions concerning the functioning of current and future DAGs. DAGs should also guarantee a balanced representation of civil society interests and be able to involve and consult external stakeholders.

Currently there are eight active DAGs with 27 members of the EESC, five more are expected to be set up by 2021 and more may follow in the future. The EESC expects the cost of its involvement in DAGs to double over the next three years and to triple to cover the FTAs currently being negotiated. (dgf)