BRUSSELS, Bel.–Wallonia, a small region of Belgium, continued to withhold on Monday its necessary support for the CETA free trade deal that the rest of the bloc and Canada wanted to sign this week.
While it remained unclear whether negotiations would resume with the francophone region of Wallonia, it was highly likely that the EU would have to call off Thursday’s summit to sign the deal with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reported the Financial Post.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, after meeting with Wallonia leader Paul Magnette, said he would be unable to give a clear answer today on whether Belgium could sign up as the last of 28 member states.
Every region in Belgium would need to back the deal, not only the national government. As a result, opposition from a region of 3.5 million could now nix a deal between over 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians.
The EU’s executive Commission called for patience in an attempt to save the free trade deal and had already dismissed a Monday night deadline as counterproductive. EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and EU President Donald Tusk, representing the world’s biggest trading bloc, were due to speak with Trudeau by phone later Monday to explain the situation.
On Monday, Wallonia President Paul Magnette insisted he would agree to nothing under the threat of an ultimatum but remained open to further talks.
“Each time they put forward such an ultimatum it makes a serene discussion and a democratic debate impossible,” Magnette said. “I indicated that other parallel political contacts are still going on and that we could give counter proposals.”
The EU Commission, which has negotiated the deal on behalf of the 28 nations, insisted that this week’s summit was not the final deadline.
“Now, we need patience,” said EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas. “The Commission traditionally does not set deadlines or ultimatums.”