Heard in Europe

A group of environmental lawyers has claimed that the controversial investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause in the mooted EU-US trade deal is illegal and could ultimately lead to the pact being ditched.

EU judges could rule that including ISDS invalidates the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Such a decision would cause it to be scrapped, said ClientEarth.

>>Read: ClientEarth legal study

As EurActiv reported in September, the NGO was investigating whether the ISDS system was compatible with EU law. ISDS allows foreign investors to sue EU and national courts.

>>Read: Commission won’t ask EU judges to decide on legality of ISDS

ClientEarth this week branded ISDS a “discriminatory legal tool” that created an alternative legal system.

Lawyer Laurens Ankersmit said: “It sidelines the EU courts and gifts businesses with a quick route to legal damages that could run to billions of euros.

“National judges, who work with EU judges to decide on matters of EU law, will also see their power undermined by ISDS.

“At the same time, the mechanism discriminates against European citizens and businesses as only foreign investors can use it in Europe.”

ClientEarth is calling for EU institutions or the member states to ask EU judges to check whether ISDS is compatible with EU law to avoid an unworkable or illegal agreement to be signed.

The European Commission and European Court of Justice has previously told EurActiv it will not ask EU judges to rule on the clause.

ClientEarth are pinning their hopes on MEPs to get judges to scrutinise the clause. The European Parliament would have to back a resolution by a majority to ask for an opinion from the court.

That is a long way off but Heard in Europe understands that a number of Green and Socialist MEPs are persuaded the move is necessary.

EU and US negotiators are currently in Miami for the latest round of TTIP talks.

Photo courtesy of Mehr Demokratie and Flickr. Published under a Creative Commons licence.

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