Thousands of protesters, strongly supported by some political parties and other pressure groups, demonstrated in Germany and several European cities on April 18, against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
Debate on nuclear energy or genetically modified food has sparked similar street protests.
The protests arise when the fear factor is triggered and unsubstantiated claims become accepted facts without being thought through. This phenomenon unfortunately dominates political daily life and decisions, and such ‘mantras’ have become accepted in party-dominated representative democracies.
Some 1.7 million people have signed the ‘Stop TTIP’ initiative in the last six months.
One of the main criticisms of the TTIP is a lack of transparency in negotiations. This causes fear of the unknown and gives some legitimacy to other, unfounded, arguments against the trade pact.
The European Union went out of its way to explain the TTIP negotiations and the underlying reasons for it on its website. It has addressed clearly all the major points of criticism.
But the EU website, especially the German version, is hardly visited while Germany and Austria are providing the strongest resistance to the deal.
Up to a week ago, the number of clicks on the German site was less than 5,000. The English website has had some 100,000 visitors, but the text on the negotiations has had only 2,300 clicks.
This is surprising as one of the main criticisms is that the negotiations are being kept secret. The anti-TTIP groups, including political parties, appear to have no interest in the facts and do not want a serious debate.
The debate on energy and especially energy change in Germany was conducted in a similar way. Emotion overruled scientific knowledge. Perception trumped the facts.
Such erratic behaviour is, unfortunately, common in many high profile debates. It is the result of indifference towards politics. This indifference is a danger for democracy and responsible governance.
Positive moves, such as the TTIP and other important debates, are being frustrated by such actions.