Brussels, 31 March 2011 – EU member states – and taxpayers – are risking legal action from foreign companies as a result of new international investment policies currently being discussed by the EU. A new report by Corporate Europe Observatory, Investment Rights Stifle Democracy, highlights how industry lobby groups, law firms and member states acting in their interest have manipulated proposals in order to weaken safeguards for governments and citizens .
Under the new rules, which will be voted on in Parliament next week, investors from China, India or elsewhere could sue EU member states if they find that a law in the area of public health, environmental protection or social policy interferes with their profits. Similar rules have already led to claims of millions of Euros against the German and Slovak governments, after foreign investors objected to national legislation, with taxpayers paying the price. In Uruguay, the tobacco company Philip Morris initiated proceedings against proposals to include health warnings on cigarette packs, arguing it would create a substantial loss of market share.
Report author Pia Eberhardt said:
“It is only a matter of time until European taxpayers will have to compensate multinationals with hundreds of millions of Euros because companies don't like policies which hamper their profits. Cases have already been brought in several countries, objecting to environmental regulations and health protection measures. There is a real danger that policy-makers will shy away from regulations in the interest of their citizens, for fear of these excessive claims. Politicians and national governments appear to think they are acting in the interests of EU investors overseas, but they are in fact exposing themselves to predatory action from foreign investors in Europe.”
'Investment Rights Stifle Democracy’ also reveals that a number of MEPs from the European People’s Party have tabled industry-biased amendments to axe proposals for a more balanced investment regime. One of the MEPs highlighted is Pablo Zalba Bidegain, the Spanish MEP who was exposed by undercover journalists last weekend for having agreed to table amendments in the Parliament in return for payment.
Carl Schlyter MEP, one of the Parliament’s rapporteurs on the investment discussion, told CEO he had never seen such an extreme example of MEPs focusing solely on big business interests .
More than 170 European civil society organisations have urged MEPs to champion a balanced investment policy that holds corporations accountable and protects the right to regulate in favour of public interest, decent work, human rights and environmental sustainability .
Pia Eberhardt, pia[at]corporateeurope.org
 The report, Investment rights stifle democracy, can be downloaded here: http://www.corporateeurope.org/publications/investment-rights-stifle-dem...
 Interview with MEP Carl Schlyter: Lobbyism is the main reason for bad policies in the EU: http://www.corporateeurope.org/global-europe/blog/pia/2011/03/24/mep-lob...
 Civil society statement: Just EU investment policy now!: http://www.s2bnetwork.org/themes/eu-investment-policy.html