ESU calls on the European Commission to exclude both public and private education from TTIP
In 2013 the governments of the European Union (EU) member states mandated the European Commission to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Since then, already 10 rounds of negotiations have taken place, with the last one in mid-July when particularly services where tabled for discussion.
Even though the European Commission (EC) and the US have faced heavy criticism from the civil society for the lack of transparency in the negotiation process, there are still among other points, public services, such as education that have been negotiated behind closed doors. It is clear that the levels of secrecy for TTIP surpass the usual practice.
With adopting the resolution, the European Parliament (EP) gave the green light to continue the negotiations, but also voted the Helga Trüpels’ amendment which calls the European Commission to exclude non-profit educational services from the scope of the TTIP. Recently the European Commission has published the services and investment offer of the EU that was negotiated to the US in the previous round of negotiations. The EU has proposed to reserve the right on publicly funded and state supported education, however few countries, including Sweden, have excluded for-profit education services out of the country-specific EU offer on the agreement.
This means that some Member States are concerned of consequences the TTIP will bring for both public and private sector.
Of big concern is also the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that would allow foreign investors to directly sue the governments for loss of profit that may result from public policy decisions. While adopting the resolution, MEPs rejected the ISDS, more precisely, requested to replace the mechanism by another system. However, even a similar dispute settlement would subject education to privatisation by deterring governments from public policies when at risk of being sued by foreign investors for the loss of their profit. Keeping education out of the deal will help protect the public cause and access to education in societies all around the Europe.
The European Students’ Union (ESU) stands strongly against the inclusion of education in TTIP, consequently ESU calls on the European Commission to make an exemption to education in the entire agreement for both public and private sector, as it was done with the audiovisual services. Including the provision of privately funded higher education is a significant threat which may lead to a wave of commodification of education and degradation of public responsibility. Education is not a commodity and when treated as a good that can be traded, many meaningful purposes of education such as its role in fostering a democratic inclusive society are endangered. Education is a human right and access to quality free education should be provided despite of person’s socio-economical, ethnical, racial and other backgrounds.
ESU is concerned that TTIP will bring irreversible long-term consequences on education especially in terms of access, quality and social purpose. Even if publicly funded education would not be directly affected by the agreement, private investors coming alongside the for-profit education institutions would burden students with high tuition fees, stimulate unhealthy competition between education institutions and lead to governments questioning their commitment to public education. This is a dangerous road for real democracy and equal opportunities for all.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership or TTIP is a trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the EU and US. It would ease the transatlantic trade by removing regulatory barriers and cutting tariffs.