European Commission Discovers The Hard Way That Corporate Sovereignty Provisions And EU Laws Are Incompatible

from the we-did-warn-you dept

The US government and European Commission insist that the inclusion of a corporate sovereignty chapter in the TAFTA/TTIP treaty will not in any way diminish the ability of nations to pass laws as they wish. A fascinating case involving an investment in Romania shows why that’s just not true. It concerns a state aid scheme instituted by Romania to attract investments in the country, which offered tax breaks or refunds of customs duties on raw materials. The scheme was supposed to remain in place for 10 years. But as part of Romania’s accession to the EU, it was required to cancel this scheme, which was regarded by the European Commission as providing unfair state aid. So, obediently, Romania abolished the scheme in 2005, some years earlier than it had promised.

That didn’t go down too well with investors. Two of them were able to use the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses of a bilateral treaty between Sweden and Romania to sue the latter. Here’s what happened next, as described in the European Commission’s press release:

An arbitral award of December 2013 found that by revoking an investment incentive scheme in 2005, four years prior to its scheduled expiry in 2009, Romania had infringed a bilateral investment treaty between Romania and Sweden. The arbitral tribunal ordered Romania to compensate the claimants, two investors with Swedish citizenship, for not having benefitted in full from the scheme.

Just part of the price of joining the European Union, you might think. But the European Commission is unhappy that compensation has been paid:

By paying the compensation awarded to the claimants, Romania actually grants them advantages equivalent to those provided for by the abolished aid scheme. The Commission has therefore concluded that this compensation amounts to incompatible state aid and has to be paid back by the beneficiaries.

That is, both the original state aid and the subsequent compensation for not providing that aid for the full term of the agreement are regarded as forbidden under EU law. So the European Commission is ordering Romania somehow to pull back from the Swedish investors the compensation awarded by the ISDS tribunal. Leaving aside the difficulty of doing so, even if Romania manages that, it will then be in breach of the corporate sovereignty tribunal ruling, which could leave it open to further legal action, and further awards against it. On the other hand, if it doesn’t rescind the compensation, it will be fined by the European Commission.

This provides a perfect demonstration of how corporate sovereignty provisions in treaties take away the ability of national governments to act freely. Moreover, in this particular case, whatever Romania chooses to do, its people will suffer financially.

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Comments on “European Commission Discovers The Hard Way That Corporate Sovereignty Provisions And EU Laws Are Incompatible”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.

What you are saying is this:

“I like that enough to download it-

But not enough to care if it sounds good”

This same mentality has existed since the invention of the cassette.

No one that actually gave a fuck about a song they really wanted would ever get it from a pirate site.

Prove me wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

First off, wrong article?
Second, to deal with your ignorance I’m going to quickly list some reasons a music fan may download:
1) Lost CD
2) Unreleased tracks (ie publisher hiding tracks for decades after an artist has passed)
3) Format shifting
4) Convenience

No-one that actually gave a fuck about music would try to paint fans as stealing scum.
Prove me wrong.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, there’s the time I wanted to listen to tracks from Linkin Park’s album A Thousand Suns because I was unsure if I would like the music after the change in the band’s style. So I went online and downloaded two or three tracks illegally to have a listen, then deleted them a couple of days later after I went out and purchased the album on CD. Those tracks are now on my hard drive along with all the others; at least, legal copies of them are.

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

Just one little addition to add to ISDS

I’ve long held the view that allowing these tribunals to take place and convict nations is a perfect way to keep those lawyers and lobbyists busy. It is better than having them free to do other, more disastrous, things. The only thing that has to be added to the ISDS provisions is allowing nations the choice to pay or not pay as the country itself sees fit…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As far as I know ISDS is supposed to only represent a judial settlement institution where no legal authority is present. In this case, EU should be such a legal authority, making the acceptance of this case, a massive judicial overreach from the tribunals side. Without knowing the specifics in this ISDS it may be reasonable to assume that (a) European cooperation treaties would have to be considered and weighed in it, (b) There are clear delineations on the tribunals judicial reach to avoid the possible future problems or (c) When Romania joined EU, the bilateral trade agreement would be annulled.

Irregardless, the problem here is a tribunal that is way out of line. Whether it is the treaty that is utter garbage or the tribunal reaching far beyond its grasp is the only question here. If you are against such provisions in the first place it is kind of unimportant.

an-other-onymous says:

Haven’t had chance to listen, so don’t know the verdict, but this sounds on-topic …

BBC Radio 4 – Company vs Country

“Inside the booming and lucrative business of multinational companies suing governments. The strangely-named investor state dispute settlement (ISDS)
system …

Are these little-known lawsuits threatening the democratic process?”

(I think BBC radio is availble outside the UK)

Anonymous Coward says:

You can listen to bbc radio in any country,

as long as you can reach
bbc tv is limited to the uk.
ISDS is incompatible with eu law as it limits how much
countrys can pass laws to regulate health ,food quality,
patent laws ,as any of these could limit a companys
ability to make profits .
SO its a direct threat to democracy ,
as it put s the interests of any corporation
above those of the consumer and the taxpayers in the eu.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, BBC TV is not limited to the UK. However, if you want to watch it outside of the UK, then you have put up with the cunts double dipping (fees and adverts. That’s part of the reason I deleted the visual channels of the EPG on my TV, so I don’t have to pay the TV Tax and can still listen to the radio in the manner of my choosing.

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