Are “Maverick” French Officials Overstepping the Policy Framework on TAFTA?

Paris, 27 February 2015, Press Release.

Despite the French government's stated position, some French officials are inviting French MEPs to not reject the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism —a position also adopted by Bernd Lange, the German socialist Rapporteur of this text. April calls on MEPs not to yield to these manipulations, and reiterates its call on the European Commission and all the institutions involved to drop negotiations.

In its response (July 2014, 7 pages) to the public consultation on investment protection and investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS), and arbitral mechanisms (RDIE), in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP), April had stressed that the ISDS mechanism was unacceptable, as it would involve both arbitral courts acting entirely outside any judicial system and arbitrators with a vested financial interest. Investors can and should bring their case to general purpose domestic courts, which are the only competent ones. In addition, the mechanism proposed by the RDIE threatens to hamper governments' attempts at regulation, if not block any new regulation in the public interest. Furthermore, in its memorandum on TAFTA [fr], April explains that the mechanism is inherently in favour of investors and contrary to citizens' rights.

In spite of the stated opposition [fr] of Matthias Fekl, the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, French officials are acting behind the scenes to avoid rejection of the RDIE mechanism in TTIP. This can be gathered from a memorandum sent by the SGAE [fr] (the French General Secretariat for EU Affairs) to the French MEPs (see also the reaction of the “Stop TAFTA” collective [fr]). In a statement to Mediapart [fr], Matthias Fekl said that “this note has been neither seen nor validated”, and that “it doesn't reflect the Government's position”. April takes note of this reframing, but cannot help fear that this note by the SGAE reflects a potential division within the Government.

“As is the case for ACTA, it is unacceptable that measures which threaten fundamental freedoms be negotiated by high-ranking officials acting on their own. If these officials did indeed act on their own, the Government must sanction those responsible”, said Frédéric Couchet, executive director for April.

Most of the TTIP/CETA-type treaties cover numerous topics, among which so-called “intellectual property”1. Thus, the laws on copyright and patents are directly affected. This text could provide a means of sanctuarising DRM as well as forcibly legalising software patents.

This is why April is taking action against TAFTA, and also against all the international trade agreements which threaten the fabric of democracy and the protection of human rights. We call on French MEPs to resist such manipulation during the coming weeks.

April denounces the attitude of the French officials, and urges once more the European Commission and all the institutions involved to drop these negotiations.

About April

A pioneer of Free Software in France since 1996, April is a major player in the democratisation of Free Software and open standards, and in their spread to the general public, professionals and institutions of the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation of information and knowledge by private interests.

The organisation is a non-profit and it has over 4,000 members, who use or produce Free Software.

For more information, you may visit, contact us by phone at +33 1 78 76 92 80, or use our contact form.

Press contact:

Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director, +33 6 60 68 89 31