Greenpeace activists block secret TTIP talks

Trade negotiators were due to discuss special court for corporations to sue governments

Press release - February 22, 2016
Brussels – Greenpeace activists have blocked EU and US negotiators from holding secret talks in Brussels for a trade deal that would give multinational corporations unprecedented power.

Photos and video will be available later this morning here.

Activists Block Secret TTIP Talks in Brussels © Philip Wilson / Greenpeace

The protesters warned that TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement – is a threat for democracy, environmental protection, health standards and working conditions. Greenpeace calls for an immediate end to TTIP negotiations.

Thirty activists from seven countries [1] chained themselves at the entrances of a conference centre where the meeting was due to take place. Some activists climbed the front of the building to deploy a large banner depicting a ‘dead-end’ road sign that read: “TTIP: dead end trade deal”.

In the two-and-a-half years since TTIP talks began, negotiators have revealed very little about the negotiations, while continuing to threaten environmental, health and labour standards. There is no reason to believe that this round of talks will be any different.

Greenpeace TTIP campaigner Susan Jehoram Cohen said: “This trade deal is not about trade. It’s about the transfer of power from people to big business. What the Commission calls barriers to trade are in fact the safeguards that keep toxic pesticides out of our food or dangerous pollutants out of the air we breathe. The negotiators who were supposed to meet in secret today want to weaken these safeguards to maximise corporate profits, whatever the costs for society and the environment. It’s our responsibility to expose them and give a voice to the millions who oppose this trade deal.”

Negotiators from the European Commission and the US trade department were due to begin a five day-long round of talks on controversial plans to allow foreign investors to challenge rules and laws that protect people and nature, including on food, chemical pollution and energy. The scheme favoured by the Commission – known as Investment Court System (ICS) – would give a new quasi-court jurisdiction over democratic states to defend the interests of investors [2]. ICS would:

-      set up a privileged judicial system by allowing multinational corporations to bypass national courts;

-      allow ICS judges, who are not permanently assigned to the court, to also act as lawyers for corporate clients, raising serious conflict of interest concerns;

-      allow preferential treatment for foreign companies over national or local businesses;

-      flout democratic principles and the right for governments to adopt and enforce laws;

-      have a ‘chilling effect’ on public authorities by discouraging them from adopting or enforcing standards in the public interest, for fear of being challenged.

Greenpeace EU legal counsel Andrea Carta added: “The Commission’s plan for a special court to protect corporate profits is a threat for democracy and the rule of law. It discriminates against local businesses and threatens the right of governments to adopt laws that are in the public interest. Multinational corporations are not above the law. The same rules should apply to them as to everyone else.”

The aim of TTIP is to remove so-called barriers to trade between the EU and the US, and to protect foreign investments above all else. With tariffs on transatlantic trade already very low, the focus of negotiations is on removing ‘non-tariff’ barriers from laws and regulations in almost every sector of the economy, from farming to textiles, and IT to banking. Concern about TTIP is growing and involves a wide spectrum of society, including NGOs, the health sector and businesses [3]. Millions have signed petitions and taken to the streets in defence of EU standards on food safety, toxic chemicals, healthcare and workers’ rights.


-      English, German, French, and Dutch spokespeople are available on the ground.

-      For a Q&A on TTIP, click here.

[1] The activists are from: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Poland.

[2] The Investment Court System also fails to address the European Parliament’s request to replace the ISDS system with a new system […] subject to democratic principles and scrutiny”.

[3] For Germany see here. For the UK see here. For Austria see here.        

Contact: Greenpeace EU press desk - +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.