EU commission ISDS proposal a threat to democracy and civil rights

(Subject to updates; ongoing analysis)

On 16 September 2015 the European Commission has published its investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) reform proposal for the EU-US trade agreement under negotiation (TTIP). Introduction

The commission’s proposal places the development of law outside democratic oversight. This transfer of power is definitive: it is practically impossible to withdraw from trade agreements. The proposal institutionalises discrimination. It gives foreign investors – and only foreign investors – the right to exit domestic legal systems and use ISDS to challenge government decisions. Continue Reading →

Can TTIP Protect European Creativity?

On 4 June 2015 the European Liberal Forum (ELF) organised a discussion on TTIP and the creative industries: Can TTIP Protect European Creativity? [1] TTIP is the trade agreement with the US under negotiation. ELF now posted some pictures on Facebook summing up the discussion: one, two, three, four, five. This of course can not capture the richness of the debate. To add some context, here are my talking points:

Patents and copyrights are monopolistic rights. Continue Reading →

European consumers can stand the truth

Some European consumers are concerned about the transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), others are not. The EU negotiates it on our behalf with the US. As a consumer association FFII took a critical stance towards TTIP early on, like an expert who explains you whether a used car you might consider to buy has defects. We now have a vital and broad public debate where at times criticism is over the top and very badly informed. The same applies towards the voices of proponents. Continue Reading →

EU Parliament resolution on TTIP is a diplomatic blunder

Today the European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on the trade agreement with the United States (TTIP). Based on this resolution we could have a discriminating and expansive investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, rigged to the advantage of the United States. A diplomatic blunder. (adopted ISDS amendment)

First, discrimination. ISDS gives foreign investors — and only foreign investors — the right to bypass local courts and challenge governments before supranational investment tribunals. Continue Reading →

ISDS compromise threatens democracy

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament proposed a compromise amendment on investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). [1]

The amendment calls on the EU commission to replace ISDS with ISDS: “to replace the ISDS-system with a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states”. The president’s proposal discriminates: only foreign investors would have access, local investors, states or citizens won’t. [2]

It is also anti-democratic and a slippery slope. Supranational fora fall outside a democratic context. Continue Reading →

France proposes empty ISDS reforms

The French government published a proposal for investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) reforms: Towards a new way to settle disputes between states and investors, May 2015. (pdf, French: Le Monde)


The French proposal would grant for-profit arbitrators, working in a system that creates perverse incentives, vast discretionary powers. This creates a serious risk on expansionist interpretations. Foreign investors would be able to use this biased system to challenge governments. As it is practically impossible to withdraw from trade agreements, the EU would be locked in. Continue Reading →

A week of fundamental critique on trade negotiations

Last week the European Parliament postponed the vote on a resolution on the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP). The vote was postponed because many social democratic members oppose investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The US House voted a fast-track package down. This week various authors criticised fundamental aspects of ongoing trade negotiations. The geopolitical argument: China

Lawrence Summers and George Soros pointed out that the use of anti-China language is dangerous. Continue Reading →

S&D ISDS amendments are seriously broken

Wednesday the European Parliament will vote on a resolution on TTIP, the agreement with the US under negotiation. The EU commission wants to add investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, to this agreement. This would give foreign investors the right to bypass local courts. In the resolution the Parliament will express its view on TTIP and ISDS. Here is the text of the draft resolution (the report of the trade committee) and the amendments; on ISDS the social democrats (S&D) tabled amendments 114-116. Continue Reading →

OpenTechSummit 2015 in Berlin a Fantastic Success

The OpenTechSummit 2015 took place for the first time in Berlin on May 14, 2015 with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure as a core partner and supporter. With more than 700 attendees – from policy makers, developers, start-ups, to contributors – and over 70 speakers the event was a huge success. A wonderful atmosphere came up through the participation of lots of kids in the hacking area and in the workshops. Topics at the OpenTechSummit range from future technologies, open hardware, encyclopedias, open data and free knowledge, software development, community networks and digital policies. The FFII was the main responsible for the track “Internet, Society and Patents”. Continue Reading →

ISDS: diplomatic blunder Malmström threatens democracy and privacy

The EU commission published a concept paper on investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). In my opinion the plans are a diplomatic blunder which threatens our democracy and privacy. ISDS would give foreign investors – and only foreign investors – the right to bypass local courts and challenge governments before supranational investment tribunals. ISDS “solves” incidental discrimination against foreign investors through structural discrimination against local investors, governments and citizens. The commission wants to go ahead with the trade agreements with Canada and Singapore. Continue Reading →

ISDS Mantra

“Debating Europe” asked the Commissioner Malmström:
Can #TTIP negotiations proceed without the #ISDS mechanism? It is a very good question which the Commissioner did not answer. Here is my answer:
ISDS is just an enforcement layer and does not affect substantive elements. Thus we could do without. Historically, lack of enforcement layers was an academic critical talking point against the GATT process. Continue Reading →