In what is a fast moving a still fluid situation, it appears the Walloon administration in Belgium may have made CETA signing conditional on a significant change – the international court element to the treaty may now, it appears, be subject to European Court scrutiny.
The signing of CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada is now imanent. This is because the impasse due to the Walloon Parliament’s rejection of CETA has lifted. The compromise reached to progress towards signing may have radically changed the nature of CETA too.
Investment Court System – a variant of ISDS, one way justice systems where Corporations can sue governments in highly secretive third party courts – has been one of the most controversial aspects of CETA.
However Walloon politicians have questioned the compatibility of this with EU law and law making.
Activist Lawyers Client Earth report the following:
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.
Friends of the Earth Europe also report the following:
“Belgium has apparently stated that four of its regional governments will not ratify the trade deal unless the proposed Investment Court System (ICS) is changed. It will also seek clarification from the European Court of Justice on whether these courts are compatible with European law. Legal experts and law professors have raised serious concerns about the compatibility of ICS with European treaties.”
They add via twitter that more hurdles may yet be coming for ratification too:
— Friends of the Earth (@foeeurope) October 27, 2016
More as more emerges.