Wednesday 21 May 2014
It was full house in the Salle Saintonge on Tuesday 20 May 2014. Over 80 people crowded in to debate the transatlantic free trade treaty, known as "TAFTA" in English, which is currently being negotiated in secret between the USA and the European Union.
The Saintonge "Stop-TAFTA" network (RSST in French) is a citizens’ network open to everyone without discrimination. Its object is to make the proposed treaty better known, and to oppose it. Its members come as individuals and not as representatives of groups, even though support from groups is accepted. It was formed on 28 April 2014 and holds weekly meetings in the back room of a Saintes café (whose name means “the scarecrow”!), every Monday from 6 to 8pm. The next meeting will be on Monday 26th, the day after the European elections. The meeting on the 21st was the first held in a larger venue, and was a success.
The organisers had chosen to give prime time to open debate. To introduce it, four speakers in succession sketched out, in half an hour, a picture of what TAFTA is. Next came questions and remarks from the floor, eliciting points of detail or points of importance. These led to the conclusion that the projected TAFTA treaty would be extermely harmful to our rights as citizens, as consumers, as producers (especially farmers), as wage-earners and as human beings, for whatever the outcome of the current negotiations, the treaty’s philosophy, if adopted, would jeopardize all our human and natural environment.
A strong desire for collective resistance emerged, for now and also if necessary in the medium and long term — similar to the resistance shown by opponents of the airport at Notre Dame des Landes.
The participants proposed various means of action, such as:
continuing to gain information, to disseminate it, and to alert people in our circles about the treaty;
to do the same with local and regional elected reps (a letter from RSST to MPs and other representatives, already signed by nearly 80 people, was circulating in the hall and gaining new signatures);
as electors, to rule out voting on 25 May for any lists of candidates whose programme does not include the refusal of TAFTA and does not commit to voting against it if it came before the European Parliament (the answers from several lists replying to a questionnaire from RSST were conveyed to those present);
if the treaty were adopted at the European level, lobbying France’s MPs and senators to make them stand in the way of ratification by the Congress;
to convince at elast 175 of them (20 % of the Congress) to lodge a bill for submitting the treaty to a referendum;
the help them subsequently to get the support of at least 10% of the electoral body (i.e. about 4.5 million electronic signatures within 6 months);
proposing to launch a petition to the European Commission in Brussels:
chartering buses for Brussels if a monster European demonstration were to be organized there...
Since the evening had gained momentum, a letter to President Hollande and PM Ayrault was improvised, discussed and adopted by those those present, who queued up to sign it before leaving. It was short but crystal-clear: “The undersigned citizens, meeting in Saintes in the Salle Saintonge on a Tuesday 20 May 2014 at the invitation of the Saintonge ‘Stop-TAFTA’ network, request that you put a stop to the translatlantic negotiations that were intended to result in a international trade trade with the English acronym TAFTA.”
This morning a handwritten letter bearing 73 names and 73 signatures was sent to the Paris offices of the President and PM. It is only the start of the debate and the struggle.