The Global Day of Action on the 18th of April marked one of the biggest global protests in years. There were 734 protest events around the globe, including Asia and Africa. What precipitated this wave was a new generation of free-trade agreements being negotiated right now, potentially affecting the whole system of global trade.
In Europe, two agreements in particular are the main target of protest: CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) between the EU and Canada and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between the EU and USA. Both stand to lower the standards of labor protection in the EU and to empower multinational corporations.
In the Czech Republic, TTIP was, and to the large extent still is, a mysterious acronym without any particular meaning. There is almost no debate in the national media about TTIP and its consequences. From time to time one can find a column in this or that daily confirming that this agreement will bring our country prosperity and strengthen our “trans-Atlantic relationship”. The second aspect is particularly important, some authors say, as we now face a serious threat from Russia. It is very often openly declared that opposition to this agreement and consequently to the free trade partnership with USA is an act of pro-Putin agitation.
While mainstream media are silent about TTIP or hostile to any criticism, alternative media portals offer no shortage of articles about the possible consequences of accepting TTIP. In spite of this fact, some of organizers of protest actions were rather skeptical about the turnout.
On Saturday 18th of April up to 500 people gathered on Náměstí 14.října in Prague to protest TTIP, CETA and similar agreements. Organizing Platform STOP TTIP (www.stop-ttip.cz) was supported by multiple organizations as the Pirate Party, Socialistická Solidarita, Idealiste.cz, Doleva!, Greens, independent anti-capitalist activists and others.
Once again, a very broad coalition was created to voice the multiple criticisms of free-trade agreements. The speakers included, besides representatives of the above-mentioned organizations, the chairman of the Trade Union of Health Care and Social Services Workers (OSZ), Dagmar Žitníková. The engagement of Czech Trade Unions is indeed crucial as they still represent the biggest organized force with a significant impact on the opinion of important section of Czech population. So far Trade Unions of Teachers and OSZ have declared their disagreement with TTIP while others still hesitate to speak openly against it.
But the protest in Prague on April 18th wasn’t the only one. A TTIP-free picnic took place in the second largest city, Brno, with the discussion focusing on the possible impact of TTIP on food production. And in the very north-east of the Czech Republic dozens participated in three-and-a-half-hour-long discussion about TTIP, CETA and global trade in Ostrava.
This success gives us as organizers hope that future protests will be bigger and louder, especially as the EU Commissar for Trade Cecilia Malmströme visits the Czech Republic in the beginning of June.