Rights for business, not for people: the EU agenda

27 November 2015

This report explains how the European Union is aggressively pursuing special rights for businesses whilst hampering efforts to hold corporations responsible for the human rights violations they commit.

The European Commission and the EU member states have been pushing for special rights for European investors whose operations are internationally enforced by secretive, business-friendly tribunals in trade agreements such as the EU-US TTIP deal. These tribunals give corporations unlimited opportunities to defend their interests, threatening democratically agreed environmental and social policies by national states.

Yet, the European countries and the European Commission are derailing attempts to develop a legally binding treaty at the UN level which would give citizens the opportunity to get access to justice and defend their human rights when these are being violated by corporations. The Commission and its Member States only support voluntary guidelines which means that citizens and communities have to depend on non-functioning grievance systems that lack any effective sanctions and enforcement.

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Commission and the EU members states to live up to their commitments on human rights by:

● Working constructively towards the adoption of a binding UN Treaty on business and human rights and promoting strong, legally binding and enforceable international agreements on human rights and environmental protection that ensure corporate accountability and access to justice for victims.

● Refraining from including investment rights and Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms (or a reformed proposal such as the Investment Court System) in any new trade or investment agreements.

● Taking ISDS rights out of existing trade agreements.