Sunday

19th Aug 2018

Brussels backs more transparency on investor claims

  • The European Commission has called on governments to adopt the UN's transparency rules on investor claims (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission has called on governments to sign up to UN transparency rules giving public access to controversial investor protection cases.

In a statement on Thursday (29 January), the EU executive said that EU governments should agree to a UN Convention on Transparency Rules in investment treaties.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

If backed by governments, the rules, which were agreed by the UN general assembly in December 2014, would apply to all existing investment treaties - numbering over 1400 - that the EU and Member States have in place.

The commission says that the regime, which includes access to documents and making hearings open to the public, as well as allowing interested third parties to make submissions to Investor State Dispute Settlement cases, have been incorporated into free trade agreements struck recently with Canada and Singapore.

Signing up to the UN rules would be a “welcome and necessary reform of the ISDS system worldwide, making old agreements more transparent,' said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

The commission proposal, which will likely be discussed by ministers in March, is the latest attempt by the Brussels executive to demonstrate it is being open and transparent when negotiating international treaties on behalf of the EU.

"The need for more transparency, independence of arbitration judges and room to regulate for governments is broader than only TTIP," said Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, who speaks for the liberal ALDE group on trade.

"European governments must show that they take the criticism of ISDS seriously and that they are willing to act to improve it."

"It's positive that the Commission puts pressure on EU member states to open up investor-state disputes," Corporate Europe Observatory spokesperson, Pia Eberhardt, told EUobserver.

"But lets not lose sight of the forest for the trees," she added. "The commission is pushing for more transparency to make the investor-state dispute settlement system more acceptable - but it does nothing to address its basic flaws."

EU and US trade officials convene in Brussels next week for the eighth round of talks on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP). At their December EU summit, leaders gave negotiators a deadline of the end of 2015 to conclude talks on the pact, which the commission estimates could be worth €100 billion extra to the EU’s economic output.

Talks on TTIP have progressed in the 18 months since talks began, but the ISDS mechanism has been the main cause of public scepticism about an EU-US trade agreement, amid concern it would allow US firms to erode EU consumer standards and intimidate governments against regulating.

ISDS, together with plans to harmonise regulation by establishing ‘mutual recognition’ of EU and US rules by the two blocs’ jurisdictions, were the main topics of discussion at a hearing in the European Parliament on Wednesday (January 28).

German centre-left MEP Bernd Lange, who chairs the parliament’s international trade committee, and has been tasked with drafting the parliament’s position at the half-way stage of talks, has indicated that investor protection can be guaranteed by their national courts.

“Should ISDS provisions be included in the TTIP, it seems to be clear, that further reforms to the current model, are critical to avoid the problems that have arisen under the provisions in existing free trade agreements (FTA)s,” Lange’s report notes.

Lange has also warned that “absolute transparency” would be needed in order to convince a sceptical public of TTIPs value.

EU-US trade talks in 'troubled waters'

EU-US trade talks are “in troubled waters” and need a “fresh start for parliament to approve an agreement”, its trade committee chairman has said.

EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

The EU Commission has received several million responses from citizens, businesses, and organisations on whether to end the daylight summertime savings. Any tangible change would take ... time.

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us