The OpenTechSummit will take 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. The Free and Open Source technology event brings together policy makers, developers, start-ups, and contributors. Topics at the OpenTechSummit range from future technologies, open hardware, encyclopedias, open data and free knowledge, software development, community networks and digital policies. In the evening there will be an “OpenTech-Himmelfahrt” lounge.
Social democratic ministers from six EU countries published reform proposals for the highly controversial investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. ISDS gives foreign investors the right to bypass local courts and use international arbitration to fight out conflicts with states. The claimants have a 50% influence on the make up of the arbitral tribunals.
United States Senator Elizabeth Warren turned against investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS): “Why create these rigged, pseudo-courts at all?” Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council, posted a response to Warren on the White House website. In turn, Simon Lester, trade policy analyst with Cato’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, refuted his arguments. I would like to add a point that does not play a role in the debate in the U.S.: ISDS is rigged to the advantage of the U.S. While this may seem advantageous to the U.S., it can turn against the U.S.
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is the most used ISDS forum; investors can choose this forum. In practice the US appoints the president of the World Bank. Continue Reading →
Since 1 January 2015 online traders in the EU, selling items like “laser swords” in an app, have to apply the applicable value-added tax (VAT) rate to their purchases and submit the tax to the applicable tax authority of the responsible European member state. The new rules affect “laser swords”, document templates and SaaS but not traditional ecommerce trade of physical goods. Fortunately there is a “mini-one-stop-shop”, that is a single point of contact, subject to your registration, to declare and distribute the VAT. For your apps you have to engineer complicated solutions to determine the applicable member state of a net customer. The situation gets easier when your customer is a company with a VATIN, that is the European number of a VAT registered company. Continue Reading →
The German delegation to the Council puts the axe against the data protection regulation. The trick is a special new pseudonyme data proposal. This shows a document from the Germans that was published by Statewatch. Under specific circumstances further processing which leads to revealing (re)-identification of the data subject should be allowed if the controller demonstrates compelling legitimate grounds which override the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject (Art.6 (5)). The controller shall consider all the determinants of risk and assess whether a threat to the data subject exists. Continue Reading →
The EU wants to create a Unified Patent Court (UPC). I will discuss some aspects of the UPC and make two more general remarks on (adjudicative) system design. The UPC proposal has a twist; it tries to minimise the role of the EU Court of Justice (CJEU). This may lead to an expansionist interpretation of patent law. According to Josef Drexl, director of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, this could easily amount to a mistake of historic dimensions:
“The policy argument behind this is to concentrate patent law cases before highly specialized patent courts and to prevent, as far as possible, any general law court from controlling the specialized court. Continue Reading →
Eva Kaili (S&D) from Greece asks the European Commission (under rule 130):
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and potential areas of conflict with the Lisbon Treaty
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (hereinafter TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment agreement, which is currently being negotiated — behind closed doors — between the European Union and the US. In particular, all TTIP negotiations are swathed in secrecy, since the Commission is imposing the most stringent restrictions on the more important documents. In response to great pressure from MEPs, the Commission has stated that Member States and selected MEPs — those who handle the relevant issues — may have some access to the EU negotiating documents, but only in designated reading (reading rooms), and the photocopying or photographing of documents will not be permitted. The Court of Justice has already issued two important decisions — on 26 June 2014 and 3 July 2014 — essentially criticising the lack of transparency and information in the negotiations. Under Article 218 of the EU Treaty (Treaty of Lisbon) and on the basis of the precautionary principle, will the Commission say:
(a) Is the procedure being adopted in this instance in accordance with Article 218 TEU? Continue Reading →
The European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest group in the European Parliament, is in favour of investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). I will discuss their position and conclude it creates three risks. First, it risks subjecting the EU to a corrupt adjudicative system. Second, it risks undermining the EU court’s exclusive jurisdiction over the definitive interpretation of EU law. Third, it risks crashing upcoming EU trade agreements. Continue Reading →
In October 2014 the European Commission published the draft text of the EU-Singapore trade agreement (EUSFTA) investment chapter. It contains investment protection rules for foreign investors and the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which gives foreign investors special rights in conflicts with governments. Seven things you should know about this investment chapter:
1. The agreement creates a lock-in. Unlike most investment agreements ratified by European countries, it is not a stand-alone investment treaty, from which parties can withdraw. Continue Reading →
Marietje Schaake, the European Parliament’s liberal group’s (ALDE) spokesperson on the trade agreement with the US (TTIP) published a blog on investor-state arbitration (ISDS). I will discuss her arguments below; to avoid cherry picking, I will quote her whole blog (for the links and images see her blog). I conclude that a majority of the European Parliament liberal group seems ready to sacrifice the separation of powers, and democracy, for no good reason. As things stand now, the liberals won’t fight for our democracy. Schaake:
Foundation for a Free information Infrastructure (FFII) submission to the European Ombudsman public consultation in relation to the transparency of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. The submission has a focus on the EU’s human rights obligations. The international human rights obligations (ICCPR and ICESCR) may be relevant for other countries as well, such as TPP countries. FFII submission: pdf, html Continue Reading →