Civil society participation in the EU’s AA with Central America?

Despite the propaganda and the hype from the European negotiators of the EU – Central America Association Agreement about social and labour conditions to be promoted by the AA and about civil society participation in the negotiations, trade unions on both sides of the Atlantic expressed disappointment and anger that the EU had not taken their views seriously. In common with other civil society organisations they consider the final agreement to be one-sided and highly trade-focussed.

The Central American and Caribbean Trade Union Coordinating Body and the Central American Workers’ Confederation along with the European Trade Union Confederation had proposed a substantive Social and Trade Union Charter that they hoped would form the basis of a chapter in the AA. This was presented to negotiators in San Salvador in May 2008 and again in Brussels in June 2008. In March 2009 and February 2010, the union bodies again wrote to negotiators reminding them of the stated intentions of governments to involve civil society in monitoring and verification of the implementation of the AA. In April 2010, Ministers refused to meet trade union representatives on the grounds of lack of time.

The two Central American organisations met in August 2010 and condemned the AA on the following grounds:

  • It fails to take into account the unequal social and economic conditions of the two regional partners.
  • It was a closed and anti-democratic process that excluded civil society.
  • It ruled out any monitoring and verification mechanisms of human rights, labour rights and environmental impacts, and includes no sanctions for non-compliance.
  • A promised Social Cohesion Fund is not mentioned in the AA.
  • The aim of Central American regional integration cannot be achieved by an agreement that is exclusively focussed on commercial issues of interest to the EU.
  • Migration and migrant workers’ rights were not addressed.
  • The AA lacks any mechanisms to improve the access of Central Americans to social security or to health and other services, especially for those who work in the informal sector.

Source: Banana Link (August 2010) ‘Central American trade unions call on governments to reject the EU trade agreement’.