Sunday

21st Jul 2019

EU governments paid €3.5bn in investor claims

  • Malmstrom - no decision until 2015 on whether investor clauses will remain in TTIP (Photo: eu2013.lt)

EU governments have been forced to pay out more than €3.5 billion in compensation to firms under controversial investor protection rules according to new research published on Thursday (4 December).

The survey, by the NGO Friends of the Earth Europe, has identified at least 127 individual cases which were brought against governments since 1994 in claims totalling more than €30 billion.

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

But the campaign group says difficulties in acquiring information about "investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS) cases, which is not publicly available, indicate that the total is likely to be far higher.

Of the 127 cases, the NGO found out the level of compensation sought in just 62 examples. The precise sum paid out is only known for 14 of them.

The status of ISDS clauses in a possible trade deal between the EU and the US, known as TTIP, has become one of the most hotly disputed issues in the talks.

The mechanism allows companies to take legal action against governments on the grounds of unfair treatment or discrimination in favour of domestic firms, or if new legislation is deemed discriminatory and compromises their business.

Critics say that corporate lawsuits, or even the threat of them, could prevent governments from passing legislation in fields such as health and safety and environmental and social protection.

The research indicates that around 60 percent of the claims related to environmental regulation, and that countries in Central and Eastern Europe, most of whom joined the EU in either 2004 and 2007, were most frequently targeted.

One well-known case is an ongoing dispute between tobacco giant Philip Morris and the Australian government over the latter’s rules requiring plain packaging for cigarettes – effectively a ban on advertising.

However, the question of whether ISDS would prevent governments from being able to take aspects of privatised healthcare back under public control also remains controversial, particularly in the UK.

In 2008 the Slovak government was ordered to pay €25 million in compensation when it sought to re-nationalise the country's health insurance scheme, a case which could strengthen the arguments of campaigners.

The European Commission, which has so far been keen to include ISDS in a deal, temporarily parked the issue by opening a public consultation on ISDS at the start of the year.

In November, six months after the consultation closed, new trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, told MEPs that the commission is still evaluating its findings.

It has promised to present a factual report on the consultation before the end of 2014, but has indicated that no political decision on the future of ISDS will be taken before spring 2015.

Trade officials hope to conclude a draft deal with the Americans in late 2015.

The research is another reminder of the uniquely high level of public interest in the EU-US trade talks.

Also on Thursday, a petition urging the EU's executive arm to halt the talks reached 1 million signatures, the threshold needed to force the commission to make an official response.

In a bid to assuage public concerns that the talks are surrounded by secrecy, the EU executive has also promised to increase the number of documents related to the talks that it will make available to the European Parliament and the public.

EU unveils plans for global investor court

The EU has unveiled plans to set up a global court to decide on investor disputes with governments in a bid to defuse one of the main controversies in EU-US trade talks.

PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory

Warsaw and Budapest are boasting about their support for von der Leyen after the german is confirmed only by a small margin of MEPs, but the illiberals should not expect the softening of rule of law scrutiny.

Analysis

Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

The first-ever female president of the European Commission wants half of her team of commissioners to consist of women. But most of the commissioners put forward by EU member states so far have been male.

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Abortion Wars
  2. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  3. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  4. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  5. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  6. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  7. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  8. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us