Bulgaria’s Cabinet approved on October 25 the signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada, as well as a strategic partnership agreement between the EU and Canada, the government media service said.
The announcement came as a very large question mark remained over whether the signing, that had been planned for October 27, would go ahead, given that three Belgian regions led by Wallonia are refusing to approve the signing.
The Bulgarian government statement said that the Cabinet had authorised the country’s Permanent Representative to the EU to sign the two documents subject to ratification and the formal commitment undertaken by Canada to cancel visa requirements for Bulgarian nationals visiting Canada for business and tourism, within a period no later than the end of 2017.
Canada made this undertaking in writing, which led to Bulgaria and Romania last week withdrawing their objection to the signing of CETA.
CETA is billed as aiming at liberalising and promoting trade in goods and services, improving intellectual property protection and investment protection. There are also provisions on sustainable development and energy resources.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Canada covers a wide range of topics, including co-operation in the fields of security, counterterrorism, international trade and investment, sustainable development, migration and border management, research, innovation and communications technology, culture, education and contacts between nations. It establishes mechanisms for channeling political dialogue and consultation.
An October 24 report by the BBC said that Canada and the EU said that they remained hopeful the deal could go ahead.
European Council President Donald Tusk said it was still possible Ceta could be signed as planned and Canada’s trade minister said the deal was “not dead”.
But Belgium has said it cannot back the deal because three French-speaking parts of the country oppose it.
On October 24, Deutsche Welle reported that European Parliament President Martin Schulz told German radio that he did not expect CETA to be signed this week. “I don’t think that we’ll get a solution this week,” Schulz told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio station. “That would seem to be very, very difficult to me.”