Europe

European Union (EU) member states have signed over 1300 investment treaties with third countries, in addition to some 200 between EU members. Non-EU European states are party to over 500 treaties. Most of these contain investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which enable foreign corporations to take ISDS claims against states if they deem their profits or potential investment to be affected by new laws or changes in policy.

The EU has ratified four agreements with an ISDS mechanism: the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), to which 53 European and Central Asian countries are party, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, and agreements with Vietnam and Singapore. Only the ECT has been fully in force. The ISDS provisions in the three others will be implemented after all member states have ratified them.

These three deals also include a revised ISDS mechanism created by the European Commission, known as the investment court system. Many critics say that this new system is largely window-dressing and does not address the core of the problem behind investor-state dispute measures.

In 2015, the European Commission asked the EU member states to terminate their intra-EU bilateral investment treaties (BITs), arguing they are incompatible with EU law, which was confirmed by the Court of Justice of the European Union in its “Achmea” decision.

As of April 2020, the number of intra-EU ISDS disputes amounted to 170, approximately 17% of all cases globally, 76 of which having been brought under the ECT.

Overall investors from European countries have initiated over 600 ISDS cases, half of which are against non-European states. European countries have been targeted in about 350 cases. Grouped together, investors from EU member states have launched the majority of total disputes (over 400).

Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine have been among the ten most frequent respondent states, while the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Italy and Switzerland have been among the ten most frequent home states of the investor.

The most well-known cases include:

Yukos (Isle of Man) vs. Russia: US$50 billion awarded in 2014 to majority shareholders of the oil and gas company (ECT invoked).

Eureko (Netherland) vs. Poland: case settled in 2005 for about €2 billion in favour of the investor, a large European insurance company (Netherland-Poland BIT invoked).

Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka (Czech Republic) vs. Slovak Republic: €553 million awarded in 2004 to the investor, one of the largest commercial banks in the Czech Republic (Czech Republic-Slovak Republic BIT invoked).

(April 2020)

Romandie | 16-Mar-2015
Deux citoyens turcs, soupconnés de fraude en Turquie, ont déposé une demande de 750 millions de dollars contre la Suisse, lui reprochant d’avoir violé un accord bilatéral de protection des investissements.
The Guardian | 10-Mar-2015
A major free trade deal should not allow US companies to sue European nations when they pass environmental laws that hurt their profits, MPs in the UK said on Tuesday.
Reuters | 6-Mar-2015
Hungary will not support any trade agreement between the United States and the European Union that impairs the jurisdiction of Hungarian courts in trade disputes, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
EurActiv | 6-Mar-2015
Studies that promote investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) have generated misleading numbers and dubious recommendations. Legislators should approach all studies with caution, warns Gus Van Harten.
Mediapart | 2-Mar-2015
La fuite d’une note fixant la position des autorités françaises sur les négociations du traité de libre-échange avec les États-Unis (accords transatlantiques, Tafta ou TTIP) a fait naître le doute sur ce que défend ou non le gouvernement français, rapporte Mediapart.
Kluwer Arbitration Blog | 1-Mar-2015
The Russian Federation filed three writs that seek to annul the award, alleging that the arbitrators did not fulfil their mandate personally because the Tribunal’s assistant played a significant role in analyzing the evidence and legal arguments.
ViEUws | 26-Feb-2015
David Martin MEP (S&D, UK), the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the EU-Singapore trade deal, criticises the infamous ISDS (investor-to-state dispute settlement) part of the agreement.
Le Monde | 25-Feb-2015
A défaut de l’écarter complètement des négociations du Tafta/TTIP (et de son petit cousin, l’accord CETA entre l’Europe et le Canada), comme le réclame une bonne partie de la société civile, la gauche européenne souhaite réformer en profondeur ce mécanisme d’arbitrage pour limiter ses dérives.
Le Monde | 24-Feb-2015
Rather than abandoning completely the TTIP/TAFTA negotiations (and their little cousin CETA, an agreement between Canada and the EU) which is what a good part of civil society are calling for, the European Left wants to thoroughly reform this arbitral mechanism to limits its abuses.
TNI | 19-Feb-2015
Public event organised by Transnational Institute, Friends of the Earth Europe and Traidcraft on 4 March 2015 in Brussels

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