BRUSSELS, Belgium — Campaigners handed the EU a petition signed by more than 1.1 million people against a huge trade deal with the United States on Tuesday, saying it could override local laws and is too secretive.
The "Stop TTIP" coalition, which groups more than 320 organizations in 24 EU nations, launched the petition two months ago in a bid to stop the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact.
Waving banners and wearing masks of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as they handed it in, several dozen campaigners said it was a "birthday" card for Juncker as he turned 60 on Tuesday.
"Juncker has to keep his promise to serve the common good and European citizens," said Stop TTIP spokesman Michael Efler. "European citizens do not want secret deals. What serves the common good is to protect essential public services and environmental, employment and health standards against corporate interests."
The chief of staff of EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem received the petition from the protesters.
Under EU rules, an initiative of more than one million signatures should force the European Commission to review a policy and hold a hearing in the European Parliament. But already in September the European Commission pre-emptively refused the initiative, saying the stated purpose to stop an ongoing negotiation was legally invalid.
Talks on the ambitious pact, which would be the world's biggest free trade agreement, began 18 months ago and are still underway, with the next round due in February.
If agreed it, would create a single market of one billion consumers spanning half the globe, harmonizing regulations and removing tariffs from Alaska to the Baltics.
But it has raised concerns in several countries that their industries or welfare systems could be affected, while campaigners' corporate interests benefit from the negotiations taking place in secret.
Campaigners say it will override local laws through the most controversial part of the pact.
This is the ISDS, the so-called investor-state dispute settlement that would allow companies to sue national governments if they feel that local laws such as health and safety regulations violate the trade deal and threaten their investments.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014