All is clear, then: CETA’s Investment Chapter is perfectly compatible with EU Law. According to Advocate General Bot, the agreement is wholly separate from the normative (as opposed to the factual) universe of EU law, and merely protects readily identifiable ‘foreigners’ investing in the EU in the same way as it protects readily identifiable ‘European’ investors in foreign lands. From what we know of the hearing, the Advocate General provides not much more than a useful summary of the talking points offered by the Council, the Commission and the vast majority of the 12 intervening Member States, remarkably united in a bid to save the EU’s new external trade and investment policy. Clearly, the pressure on the Court to follow suit will be enormous. And yet. It is true, CETA builds strong fences to make good neighbors. But let spring be the mischief in me: CETA cannot wall out what EU Law walls in.[i]
The EU’s exercise of its post-Lisbon competences over foreign direct investment (FDI) has been anything but smooth. In Opinion 2/15 the CJEU clarified the EU and Member State competences over the EU’s new generation free trade and investment agreements, resulting in the splitting of the EU‑Singapore agreement into a separate trade and investment agreement. Then, in Achmea the Court found investor-state arbitration (ITA) clauses under intra-EU BITs to be incompatible with EU law, which will result in the termination of almost 200 intra-EU BITs and the non-enforcement of ITA awards rendered under them within the EU. Now, everyone is anxiously awaiting the outcome of Opinion 1/17 – requested by Belgium under the insistencies of Wallonia – and whether the Investment Court System (ICS) under CETA is compatible with EU law. This opinion will not only affect the entry into force and conclusion of the trade and investment agreements with Canada, Singapore, Vietnam and Mexico, but it will have broader implications for the multilateral ISDS reform process and the EU’s investment policy.
Therefore, Advocate General Bot’s extensive opinion delivered on 29 January 2019 (first commentaries here and here) in which it found the CETA ICS to be compatible with EU law deserves scrutiny. I will only focus on the AG’s arguments concerning the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Justice over the definitive interpretation of EU Law. In a separate post, Harm Schepel will focus on the AG’s arguments on non‑discrimination. Continue reading →
The European Commission is about to gain a new investigative power through the Single Market Information Tool (SMIT). The SMIT will allow the Commission to request information (including factual market data or fact-based analysis) from private firms or trade associations when the Commission initiates or substantiates infringement proceedings against one or more Member State(s) that may have failed to fulfil an obligation under the applicable Single Market legislation. This post will discuss the background of the SMIT, its purported rationale, and critically reflect on the powers granted to the Commission under the SMIT.
The Commission is at pains to clarify that the SMIT initiative does not aim to create new enforcement powers allowing it to pursue infringements of Union law in the Single Market area against individual market participants. That said, the Single Market rules can be infringed by either Member States or private companies. Therefore, companies responding to such information requests will not only incur administrative and financial burdens, but they will also have to be careful not to incriminate themselves in doing so, as we will see below.
To say that the EU’s new generation of trade agreements (such as CETA and TTIP) is politically controversial is becoming somewhat of an understatement. These free trade agreements (FTA), going beyond mere tariff reduction and facilitating hyperglobalization, have faced widespread criticism from civil society, trade unions, and academics. It may come as no surprise therefore that the legal issue over who is competent to conclude such agreements (the EU alone, or the EU together with the Member States) has received considerable public attention, ensuring that the Advocate General Sharpston’s response to the Commission’s request for an Opinion (Opinion 2/15) on the conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA (EUSFTA) has made the headlines of severalEuropeannewspapers.
The Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston in Opinion 2/15, delivered on 21 December, is partly sympathetic to the Commission’s arguments on EU powers, but ultimately refutes the most outlandish of the Commission’s claims to EU power vis-à-vis that of its constituent Member States. The Opinion is of exceptional length (570 paragraphs, to my knowledge the longest Opinion ever written), and contains an elaborate discussion on the nature of the division of powers between the EU and the Member States and detailed reasoning on specific aspects of the EUSFTA such as transport services, investment protection, procurement, sustainable development, and dispute settlement.
Given the breadth of the AG’s conclusions, the aim of this post is to discuss the Opinion only in relation to investment protection and to reflect upon some of the consequences for the Commission’s investment policy, perhaps the most controversial aspect of this new generation of trade agreements. Continue reading →
The free movement of capital provision of Art. 63 TFEU applies ratione loci ‘worldwide’: to both capital movements within EU’s internal market and to movements from the internal market to third countries (and vice versa). Or perhaps almost worldwide, since the question arises whether the free movement of capital also applies to the British, Danish, Dutch and French Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), which are not part of the internal market but associated with the EU?
In 2011, the CJEU decided in Case C-384/09 Prunus that Art. 63 TFEU also applied to the OCTs as if they were third countries; they are not third countries, since they áre part of the EU Member States (such as the Caribbean island of Curacao which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, both constitutionally as under public international law; under EU-law, Curacao is an OCT).
Now, only three years later, the CJEU has decided otherwise in joined cases C-24/12 and C-27/12 X BV and TBG Limited. It came to the conclusion that not Art. 63 TFEU applies to the OCTs, but that a special capital movement provision which is contained in the OCT Association Decision applies in relation to the OCTs. This latter provision liberalises – in my view – ‘less’ than Art. 63 TFEU, since it ‘only’ applies to ‘direct investments in companies’, whereas Art. 63 TFEU also applies to (at least) 12 other categories of capital movements, such as investments in immovable property.
Last week’s Grand Chamber judgments Commission v Germany (C-95/12) and Essent (C-105/12) may have brought some important clarifications on the “golden share” case law. They seem to point towards a more prudent, differentiated understanding of Art 63 TFEU in regard to the corporate governance of publicly owned companies. In the decision Commission v Germany, the Court dismissed an action brought under Art 260(2) TFEU for failure to comply with the 2007 VW law judgment; and in Essent it found Dutch measures ensuring public ownership of gas and electricity transmission system operators justifiable on public interest grounds.
Directive 94/19/EC on deposit-guarantee schemes, which has also been transposed into EEA law, obliges EU and EEA EFTA states to create deposit-guarantee schemes. Deposit-guarantee schemes reimburse a limited amount of deposits to depositors where their bank has failed. The purpose is to protect a part of depositors’ wealth from bank failures, and thus to prevent depositors from making panic withdrawals from their bank with potentially dire economic consequences. In the present case, the EFTA Court was confronted with an action by the EFTA Surveillance Authority against Iceland. The Authority claimed that Iceland had violated the transposed Directive and thus EEA law in the aftermath of its major economic crisis and collapse of the banking sector in 2008, by failing to ensure that British and Dutch depositors using the famous ‘Icesave’ accounts offered by Icelandic banks received the minimum amount of compensation set out in Article 7(1) of the Directive. In a rather surprising decision handed down on Monday this week, the Court interpreted the Directive very narrowly, effectively finding that Iceland had not failed to comply with its obligations under EEA law. Continue reading →
A short note on a case of yesterday: In Commission v. Germany (judgment only available in German and French so far), the Commission had argued that the free movement of capital was hindered by provisions of German tax law according to which non-resident pensions funds could not deduct directly connected operating costs from dividends and interests generated in Germany. This would create a disadvantage compared to resident pension funds which were entitled to deduct these costs in full. However, the Commission failed to convince the Court that it had a plausible case. Continue reading →