One in every six jobs depends on exports in this country. Imports are also important for Slovenia – trade agreements like TTIP are about making it easier for companies to import and export, especially for small and medium sized enterprises.
- EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström -
Citizens' Dialogue in Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström. 150 people participated in the lively debate on TTIP. The large majority of questions touched upon the ISDS – the investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism – being a part of the negotiated agreement between the EU and the United States. In the middle of the Dialogue, opponents of the TTIP agreement interrupted the event by singing. They then left, as they were not interested in hearing what the Commissioner had to say about the details of TTIP.
"We would like to listen to all concerns, and hopefully these will be heard and taken into account", declared Zdravko Počivalšek, the Minister of Economic Development and Technology, in his introductory address. "Slovenia supports the TTIP negotiations, but doesn't wish to see the people's fears realised" he continued. "What would be the impact of this agreement on the average Slovenian company?" he asked Commissioner Malmström directly.
She replied that "one in every six jobs depends on exports in this country. Imports are also important for Slovenia – trade agreements like TTIP are about making it easier for companies to import and export, especially for small and medium sized enterprises. Why? Because when a company faces tariffs or bureaucracy, it creates a problem when trading with the US.
"Do you have enough information on what is being negotiated in TTIP? The participants have been asked to express their opinions. The large majority of them (76%) answered 'no', 15% voted for 'yes' and 8% for 'I do not know'". The Commissioner explained that the European Commission is sharing texts, legal proposals and background information related to the negotiations online for all interested parties. There are also detailed summaries of each negotiating round available.
Aleš Cantarutti, the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology underlined that the Slovenian government will be against any reduction in standards concerning food and public services. "What is regulated at the EU level will stay. We are not changing anything when it comes to food safety standards", Commissioner Malmström reassured him and the audience.
90% of questions concerned the investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism. "ISDS is not something we invented in TTIP" Commissioner Malmström replied. She reminded the audience that there are 3 400 agreements based on this all over the world which have existed since 1959. She also underlined that the European Commission has recently approved its proposal for a new and transparent system for resolving disputes between investors and states – the Investment Court System.
It was clearly stated that the Slovenian government is not in favour of the ISDS, but is ready to listen the details of the new system. Mr Cantarutti also declared that the national parliament in Slovenia should have a right to approve the final TTIP agreement.
The Dialogue was interrupted by a group of TTIP opponents. They sang "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from "Les Misérables", known as a protest song throughout the world. "I am ready to answer your questions" declared Cecilia Malmström. The protesters were clearly not in favour of the open discussion though and left the room straight after giving their performance.
At the end of the Dialogue, participants were asked to vote on the question: "Do you think that today's dialogue has improved your knowledge of TTIP?" 36 % of participants declared "yes", 46% voted for "no", and 10% stated "I do not know".