'We reject corporate courts' say 280,000 European citizens

16 March 2017

The European Union should abandon plans to establish a global corporate court system, say Campact, WeMove.EU and Friends of the Earth Europe ahead of the end of a public consultation on the issue by the European Commissionon Wednesday March 15, 2017.

More than 280 000 citizens from across Europe have signed a petition against the plans, known as the 'multilateral investment court'. [1]

The European Commission's proposal would allow foreign investors to bring claims on the basis of previously agreed trade and investment treaties and bypass national court systems. [2] The three organisations deplore that the EU proposal would entrench the power of corporations over public policy making.

Virginia López Calvo from WeMove.EU said: "Citizens from across Europe have spoken out against establishing a global corporate court. The European Commission should heed these voices and withdraw its current proposal which allows corporations to challenge democratically agreed decisions. There is absolutely no need for a global corporate court."

Campact, WeMove.EU and Friends of the Earth Europe are demanding an end to existing investment tribunals that are exclusively available to corporations and undermine policy making in the public interest. The plan to establish them through the TTIP trade agreement with the US had already met stiff resistance and their inclusion in the EU Canada trade deal CETA almost derailed the agreement in autumn last year. A public consultation in 2014 with record participation showed that 97% of respondents rejected the establishment of corporate tribunals entirely [3]. A Multilateral Investment Court would secure corporate rights without addressing the fundamental problems of the tribunals.

Paul de Clerck, economic justice programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "It is highly regrettable that the European Commission puts so much effort into shielding the unjustified privileges currently afforded to foreign investors. The proposal is another missed opportunity to fundamentally change the unfair and dangerous investment tribunal system. Instead of entrenching corporate privileges, the European Union should focus on enhancing the rights of communities and individuals who are affected by corporate abuses."

The three organisations vow to continue presenting the widespread public opposition to decision makers, including the governments of the EU member states, which are expected to decide on a negotiation mandate for the multilateral investment court at the beginning of 2018.

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[1] As of March 16, 280 000 citizens from across Europe had signed the petition organized by Campact, WeMove.EU and Friends of the Earth Europe. The petition remains open. The signatures collected so far were presented to Maria Åsenius, head of Cabinet DG Trade on Wednesday 15 March 2017.

[2] While the court is intended to operate with permanent members instead of ad-hoc arbitrators, in contains most of the fundamental problems of investor-state dispute settlement mechanism by :

  • only allowing foreign investors to sue
  • affording them with far-reaching rights without any obligations
  • allowing them to bypass national court systems.

It is therefore highly unlikely to prevent the extraction of large sums of public money as well as the weakening of regulations and standards which the ISDS system has allowed in the past. A more comprehensive analysis and criticism of the proposal can be found here.

[3] Friends of the Earth Europe and other groups contributed significantly to the consultation in 2014.

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