EU planning parallel justice system for business, new leak shows

19 May 2016 - 7:30am
Press release

A leaked EU document, published today, reveals that European governments are secretly planning to introduce a special justice system for business investors across Europe.

The plan seeks to establish a set of legal privileges for corporations within Europe, undermining domestic courts and creating a parallel system open to foreign investors alone.

The proposed investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism is already highly controversial across Europe, in that it allows transnational corporations a unique power to challenge any new laws or regulations that could adversely affect their profits in future. The EU also plans to extend the power to North American corporations in the EU-US trade deal TTIP and EU-Canada agreement CETA.

The EU public consultation on ISDS generated a record public participation of 150,000 responses, with over 97% saying they did not wish to see such powers introduced. The European Commission has ignored the findings of the consultation and is pressing ahead with the introduction of the new powers regardless.

John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, said: "This latest leak shows EU governments plotting to undermine the basic principle of equality before the law. Big business will get its own parallel justice system, and with it the power to sue us for any future public policy choices that go against corporate interests. Coming just one month before the UK referendum on EU membership, this is a further sign of the death of democracy in Europe."

The proposal was tabled in secret at last month's EU trade policy committee by the five governments of Austria, France, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, and was followed by the publication of a similar proposal on the website of EU lobby group Business Europe, in what appears to have been a coordinated action.

It seeks to remove the current set of bilateral investment treaties between EU member states and introduce an all-embracing right for business to sue across Europe as a whole.

The document was brought to light by the Seattle to Brussels Network, the European trade campaign of which War on Want is a member.

NOTES TO EDITORS

For more details or comment on the leaked document, contact John Hilary on +44 7983 550727.

The text of the proposal is attached below, while a more detailed analysis is available here.

 

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