No to ISDS!

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12 June 2014 | AK Europa, ÖGB Europabüro and Friends of the Earth Europe



Although trade and investment agreements have always had a substantial impact on almost every aspect of the daily life of citizens, workers and consumers, the European Commission nevertheless prefers to negotiate secretly behind closed doors. Trade unions and civil society organisations are not actively involved in trade talks. This is particularly true for the on-going trade negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States of America – the largest bilateral trade and investment agreement ever negotiated.

Democratically unjustifiable and unacceptable

One of the most contested elements is the so-called “investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)”. Investor-state dispute settlement is a provision that empowers foreign investors to sue the states where they have made investments in secret international tribunals. This allows investors to challenge regulatory measures introduced by the host country that reduce the investment potential (including expected profits) of investors. It limits the capacity of democracies to pass legislation addressing legitimate public concerns, such as labour rights, health and environmental protection, or human rights. Furthermore, investor-state arbitrations are carried out behind closed doors with corporate lawyers (for-profit arbitrators), who are not accountable to the public and have a commercial interest in keeping this harmful system alive (which creates a significant conflict of interest). Investor-state arbitration thus puts private corporations and governments on the same level. From a democratic point of view, this is totally unjustifiable and unacceptable.

Negotiations behind closed doors, no involvement of citizens, trade unions and civil society

The arguments against investor-state dispute settlement have been known for many years. Despite this, the European Commission has attempted to silently push it through in its ongoing trade negotiations with the US. It was only after sustained and substantial protests by citizens, trade unions and civil society groups that the European Commission launched a public consultation on the mechanism. However, this consultation - that was initially sold by the European Commission to the public as a way to involve citizens, trade unions and civil society - turns out to be a mere caricature.

First of all, the consultation does not ask the public whether they want investor-state dispute settlement or not in TTIP. Furthermore, ordinary citizens are overwhelmed with a highly technical and lengthy questionnaire. To make matters worse, the public are forced to exclusively stick to this electronic questionnaire that is not very user-friendly. Letters or E-Mails are not permitted. This contradicts the very essence of public consultations and makes it highly problematic from a democratic point of view.

For all of these reasons, AK EUROPA (the Brussels office of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour), the ÖGB Europabüro (the Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation), and Friends of the Earth Europe (the largest European environmental grassroots network), wish to offer guidance to anyone who would like to speak out against investor-state arbitration and secretive, opaque trade negotiations taking place behind closed doors.

We believe that special privileges for investors should be excluded from TTIP. We therefore also reject the Commission’s proposal to ‘improve’ the currently foreseen investor-state dispute settlement system. The only viable solution is: NO INVESTOR-STATE DISPUTE SETTLEMENT AT ALL!

It is of fundamental importance that we send a clear and strong message to the European Commission. Take part in the consultation and help us push back unjustified privileges for private investors at the expense of people and societies as a whole!

The only thing you need to do is click on the Take action button!

source: No to ISDS