Photo of harbour to illustrate story saying CETA investor rules will be judged by highest court in EU

Investor rights to be judged by highest court in Europe as part of Belgian CETA deal

The legality of one of the most controversial elements of the EU-Canada trade deal will be decided by the European Court of Justice.

It’s part of the trade-off agreed by political leaders in Belgium, after the Walloon Parliament vetoed the deal. The signing ceremony for CETA was cancelled on Thursday because the region of Wallonia voted against it.

Laurens Ankersmit, EU trade lawyer for ClientEarth said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the European Court of Justice will get the opportunity to answer this important legal question. The Investment Court System will be judged by the highest court in Europe. It is absolutely essential that this controversial mechanism is legal in the first place.

“We applaud Wallonia for standing firm in its request to get ICS checked by the European Court of Justice.”

The Walloon Parliament questioned the legality of investor rules ISDS and ICS, saying that rule of law in the EU and Canada was sufficiently strong to protect investors without the need for a separate court system.

But under a compromise deal, Belgium has said that it will refer ICS to the European Court of Justice.

In 2015, ClientEarth analysis showed that ISDS and ICS, which would effectively create a court system available only to foreign investors, is incompatible with EU law.

Wallonia called for state-to-state dispute settlement, rather than investor-state dispute settlement. It was also worried that the precautionary principle – which lets policymakers protect people and the environment from things that are suspected to cause harm – was being eroded.

Under Belgium’s federal system, the national government can’t sign the deal until all six regional parliaments approve it. The compromise will also have to get through all the regional parliaments.

ClientEarth recently launched a lawsuit against the Commission, because it refused to disclose official analysis of whether ISDS and ICS are legal. The Commission said sharing the legal reflections would undermine its negotiating position in trade agreements. This contravenes EU transparency laws. The case continues.

Share this...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone

Ksenia Kudelkina

Related articles

More from

  • Yellow, pink and blue flowers up close

    An EU multilateral investment court must be fair and inclusive

    The Commission’s plans for a multilateral investment court must respect domestic courts, be inclusive, and protect responsible investment only.

  • Skyscpaers reflected in ice at night

    Rule of law shunned as CETA deal approved in European Parliament

    MEPs have voted through CETA, without seeking the opinion of the European Court of Justice on one of the most controversial elements of the trade deal.

  • smoke stack lilac orange

    And ‘Europe’s greenest’ award goes to… German coal capital

    Coal capital Essen has scooped this year’s official ‘Europe’s greenest’ title. Our environmental lawyers are incredulous.

  • Edie award 2017

    Sustainability Leader Award for CEO

    Our CEO James Thornton has been named Sustainability Leader of the Year at the Edie Sustainability Leader’s Awards in London.

  • Explore our work

    Follow us


    Get our regular email newsletters, they contain the latest updates on our work as well as features and articles about environmental issues, science and politics.