On 7 May, the Peru Europe Platform (PEP), a coalition of 14 European civil society organisations that work on human rights issues in Peru (of which the PSG is one) and 27 Peruvian civil society organisations sent a letter to Madelaine Tuininga (head of the Trade Unit at the European Commission that expressed disappointment at the Commission’s official response to the complaint submitted in October 2017.
The complaint against the Peruvian government referred to alleged breaches of Peru’s international labour and environmental commitments under Title IX on sustainable development of the EU-Peru Trade Agreement.
In July 2018, Commissioner Malmstrom had written to Peru’s (then) foreign trade minister raising concerns relating to Title IX. These closely mirrored the issues highlighted in the original complaint. Malmstrom had also asked the Peruvian authorities to show resolve and take the necessary steps to remedy the most pressing issues.
However, the Commission’s final conclusions and recommendations paid little heed to the points that Malmstrom had raised. On 26 March, 17 months after the complaint was lodged, the civil society groups received a brief letter of response that lacked any analysis and recommendations on the main issues raised in the complaint.
The Commission’s response also failed to mention any serious commitments from the Peruvian authorities to establish clear objectives and indicators to monitor progress in order to tackle some of the biggest environmental and labour rights concerns.
These included the high percentage of informal labour in Peru (see article above), the level of the minimum wage (one of the lowest in Latin America), and restrictions on collective bargaining. The complaint affirmed that Peru’s rate of unionisation in the private sector is five times lower than it was 30 years ago, and that the consecutive use of fixed-term temporary contracts continues to act as an obstacle to workers joining unions.
On the environment, the complaint pointed to the continued application of legislation that has weakened environmental controls, such as the increasing use of administrative procedures that allow companies to modify or expand their projects in ways that avoid civil participation.
The Peruvian authorities have also sought to limit civil society participation in monitoring Title IX implementation, arguing that there already exist established forums such as the National Council of Labour and Employment Promotion and the National Climate Change Committee.
For their part, Peruvian civil society formed a Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) in 2018 as the counterpart for discussions with the European DAG, alongside DAGs from Colombia and Ecuador. All parties to the treaty have a DAG of their own except Peru where the government refuses to acknowledge the civil society-proposed DAG.
Peruvian and European civil society organisations maintain that the existing forums do not offer a satisfactory channel for dialogue, nor do they guarantee effective participation.
The signatories to the letter to Tuininga say they welcome the fact that the EU and Peru have stepped up their dialogue on Title IX. They claim to have identified policy initiatives which, if properly implemented, would lead to improvements. They urge the Commission to share its analysis and recommendation as the basis for the “well-defined and time-bound” action plan mentioned in Malmstrom’s first letter.