Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Investment rights stifle democracy

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New rules due before the Parliament this week will allow investors from China, India or elsewhere to sue EU member states if they find that a law in the area of public health, environmental protection or social policy interferes with their profits. A new CEO report shows how law firms, industry and member states have manipulated the debate leading to the proposals and how a number of MEPs have tabled industry-biased amendments to prevent a more balanced investment regime. One of them is "Mr. cash-for-amendments" Pablo Zalba Bidegain.

Next week, MEPs are due to vote on a report from the Parliament’s international trade committee (INTA) about Europe’s international investment policy – giving guidelines for the rights of foreign investors under future EU trade deals. The vote follows fierce attempts by law firms, industry and member states to enshrine the right of foreign investors to challenge national laws that affect their profits. As a result, European member states could soon find domestic laws challenged by foreign companies – and politicians will have no powers to intervene.

The report due before the Parliament will effectively give the green light to a European Commission proposal to grant new privileges to foreign companies, allowing them to challenge policies from the local to the European level if they look like they might harm the profitability of a company's investments. The proposal threatens to take millions of Euros in legal expenses and compensation out of taxpayers’ pockets and interfere with the ability of European governments to legislate in the interests of their citizens. Yet the Commission is already integrating these new corporate rights into its planned free trade agreements with India, Canada and Singapore.

At the same time, INTA is also discussing a report on the future of the over 1,200 existing investment treaties of EU member states, which give similarly sweeping rights to foreign investors.

In both cases the European People’s Party (EPP) has been campaigning against any attempt to rectify the current unbalanced investment regime and impose social and environmental obligations on investors. Several EPP MEPs have tabled amendments which appear to have come from outside the Parliament, making the original draft report more investor-friendly. Among them is the Spanish MEP Pablo Zalba Bidegain, who was the fourth MEP to be caught accepting cash in return for amending laws by undercover journalists. EPP members Daniel Caspary, Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl (both Germany), Christofer Fjellner (Sweden) and Emilio Menéndez del Valle from the Socialists and Democrats (Spain) have also proposed changes that are strikingly in line with industry demands.

The EPP’s attack follows a misleading lobby campaign by EU member states, law firms and industry lobby groups including BusinessEurope and the European Services Forum. They have misled MEPs with claims that are either unsubstantiated or have been contradicted by evidence, and have withheld crucial information about the immense legal, budgetary and policy risks created by investment agreements.

Read the full CEO report:

Next week, MEPs are due to vote on a report from the Parliament’s international trade committee (INTA) about Europe’s international investment policy – giving guidelines for the rights of foreign investors under future EU trade deals. The vote follows fierce attempts by law firms, industry and member states to enshrine the right of foreign investors to challenge national laws that affect their profits. As a result, European member states could soon find domestic laws challenged by foreign companies – and politicians will have no powers to intervene.The report due before the Parliament will effectively give the green light to a European Commission proposal to grant new privileges to foreign companies, allowing them to challenge policies from the local to the European level if they look like they might harm the profitability of a company's investments. The proposal threatens to take millions of Euros in legal expenses and compensation out of taxpayers’ pockets and interfere with the ability of European governments to legislate in the interests of their citizens. Yet the Commission is already integrating these new corporate rights into its planned free trade agreements with India, Canada and Singapore.At the same time, INTA is also discussing a report on the future of the over 1,200 existing investment treaties of EU member states, which give similarly sweeping rights to foreign investors.In both cases the European People’s Party (EPP) has been campaigning against any attempt to rectify the current unbalanced investment regime and impose social and environmental obligations on investors. Several EPP MEPs have tabled amendments which appear to have come from outside the Parliament, making the original draft report more investor-friendly. Among them is the Spanish MEP Pablo Zalba Bidegain, who was the fourth MEP to be caught accepting cash in return for amending laws by undercover journalists. EPP members Daniel Caspary, Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl (both Germany), Christofer Fjellner (Sweden) and Emilio Menéndez del Valle from the Socialists and Democrats (Spain) have also proposed changes that are strikingly in line with industry demands.The EPP’s attack follows a misleading lobby campaign by EU member states, law firms and industry lobby groups including BusinessEurope and the European Services Forum. They have misled MEPs with claims that are either unsubstantiated or have been contradicted by evidence, and have withheld crucial information about the immense legal, budgetary and policy risks created by investment agreements.Read the full CEO report:
 
"There is de facto a systemic collusion between the Commission and business circles"
Civil society organisations denounce European Commission’s leaked proposal
On 17 April, Via Campesina, the D190-20 Alliance and Corporate Europe Observatory held a lobby tour around the Brussels European quarter, highlighting the corporate lobbies who are pushing an aggressive agenda around TTIP (the EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated). There was a particular emphasis on the impacts TTIP will have, if passed, for farmers' livelihoods, food standards, and for the way food is produced in the EU. The next negotiation round will take place on 20 April, this time in New York.
In response to the criticism of the controversial investor rights in TTIP, a number of law firms recently founded a think tank designed to protect the current investment arbitration system: The European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA).
"There is de facto a systemic collusion between the Commission and business circles"
The way in which the Commission has appointed the head of its “in-house think-tank” has demonstrated its woefully inadequate conflict of interest assessment for new appointments, says Corporate Europe Observatory. The conflict of interest assessment applied to the former chief of the Lisbon Council, Ann Mettler as head of the new European Political Strategy Center (EPSC) does not appear to have explored her close cooperation with some of the biggest corporate players in the digital and technology market. In CEO's view, this casts serious doubts on the independence of the advice that is to be given to President Juncker and his college of commissioners.
Civil society organisations denounce European Commission’s leaked proposal
On 17 April, Via Campesina, the D190-20 Alliance and Corporate Europe Observatory held a lobby tour around the Brussels European quarter, highlighting the corporate lobbies who are pushing an aggressive agenda around TTIP (the EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated). There was a particular emphasis on the impacts TTIP will have, if passed, for farmers' livelihoods, food standards, and for the way food is produced in the EU. The next negotiation round will take place on 20 April, this time in New York.

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