In an astonishing move which ignores the opinion of millions of citizens who oppose ISDS, the governments of Austria, France, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands (AFFGN) have made a sly attempt to institutionalise ISDS throughout the European Union. According to a leaked non-paper, on the 7th April representatives of these five nations made a proposal to the EU Council’s Trade Policy Committee which would in effect create a plurilateral treaty based on foreign investment protection within the EU. A move which was suspiciously followed by publication of a similar proposal on Business Europe’s website in what appears to have been a coordinated action.
Western European countries and Central and Eastern European Countries that in the mean time have become members of the EU concluded dozens of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITS) between after the collapse of the Communist regimes. The EC has maintained that these BITs are in contradiction with EU law, create discrimination between member states and economic actors and should be terminated. But because they failed to enforce this, investors in EU member states have in the meantime challenged the policies of other EU governments over a hundred times. The proposal by the AFFGN would in deed terminate these BITs but at the same time launch a new super intra-EU investment agreement that would grant investor privileges across the entire Union.
As Amélie Canonne from AITEC, a member of the S2B Network states, ‘this proposal would institutionalise ISDS in the European Union giving unacceptable breadth of power to corporate interests who place profit before our health, the environment and social concerns. Hundreds of investor-state dispute cases have already by bought by companies who perceive social protection to be harmful to their profits.’ The proposal would also undermine the internal market as Amélie Canonne goes on to explain ‘the ISDS system, in whatever modality, discriminates in favour of cross-border investors over local, is based in an undemocratic system of arbitration and abuses tax payers money to serve corporate interests.’
At a time when the European Union is struggling for identity and under fire from all sides for being out of touch with the reality of people’s lives, this is seen as a cynical and hypocritical attempt by five it’s leading Member States to undermine the public interest. Which begs the question, how far will some countries in the bloc go to allow trade interests to take over completely?