On 24 and 25th of October, the PSG, as a member of the Peruvian European Platform (PEP), was in Brussels to present to the European Commission a complaint against Peru, for failure to comply with some of the labour and environmental international standards which were reaffirmed under Title IX of the Trade Agreement between Peru and the European Union. The complaint has been submitted by the PEP coalition, along with 27 Peruvian civil society organisations, which have added their names to it. The full text of the complaint is here.

The delegation presenting the complaint was composed of Javier Mujica, from Peruvian organisation Peru Equidad, and representatives from European organisations 11.11.11 (Flemish coalition, Belgium), the PSG (Britain), and Justice and Peace (Belgium). They met with 9 representatives from the Directorate General for Trade (DG Trade) at the European Commission’s headquarters, for the official presentation. Meetings were also held with representatives from the Belgian Federal Parliament and with the office of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Through emblematic cases, the complaint details many violations by the Peruvian government of a series of provisions contained in the Trade Agreement, and asks the European Union and its member states to thoroughly assess the information provided and make appropriate recommendations to the Peruvian authorities to remedy the situation. Civil society organisations – in their observer role within the TA framework – hope that, by following concrete recommendations, Peru can start to act truly in favour of human rights and sustainable development.

In labour matters, Javier Mujica stressed that Peru violates the Fundamental Conventions of the ILO included in the Agreement, mainly the principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining. “In Peru, there is a very anti-union climate. We see on a regular basis how companies abusively treat union workers, without the State taking the appropriate measures”. The unionization rate in Peru is 6 times lower than it was 30 years ago. Also, Peru abuses the use of temporary contracts, which undermines the capacity of workers for collective action.

In environmental matters, the Peruvian government has enacted legislation which weakens environmental governance with the objective of promoting investment. “The procedures and safeguards to protect the environment are perceived as obstacles to trade”, explained Géraldine Duquenne, from the PEP. We have seen, for instance, how the mandate of the Ministry of the Environment has been weakened, and how it has become more difficult to make companies that commit environmental violations accountable.

For its part, representatives of DG Trade thanked civil society representatives for their presentation and gave us assurances that they will keep us informed of any steps they may take with regard to the complaint. EU representatives made it clear, however, that any future action will be carried out “in the spirit of collaboration and dialogue”. We can only hope that conversations between the parts bear fruit and civil society’s voices are given serious thoughts.

The PSG, with its European partners, will continue to work alongside Peruvian organisations to monitor the response to this complaint. One of the EU delegates mentioned that this is the first of its kind, which means we are all in uncharted territory.