The European Commission has published the final text of the EU-Singapore trade agreement. 1 Chapter eight contains implicit and explicit cross-border data flow commitments, with insufficient safeguards. This makes the agreement incompatible with the EU fundamental right to data protection. Noteworthy, a few months ago the EU commission adopted a new, stronger, data protection safeguard for use in trade agreements. The EU-Singapore trade agreement text does not contain this stronger safeguard.
On 31 January, the European Commission agreed on new plans for cross-border data flows and personal data protection in trade negotiations. Cross-border data flows are a difficult issue. Companies want them. The EU wants to open foreign markets for its strong services industry. But data protection is a fundamental right in the EU; it has to be protected also in cross-border data flows.
The EU and Japan have announced the conclusion of the final discussions on a trade agreement, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Regarding cross-border data flows and data protection, the European Commission’s press release states that recent reforms of their respective privacy legislation offers new opportunities to facilitate data exchanges, including through a simultaneous finding of an adequate level of protection by both sides. But this is not the full story. Besides the possibility to adopt adequacy decisions, the EPA contains explicit data flow commitments in the financial section, implicit data flow commitments in the services chapter, and a review clause. Especially the implicit data flow commitments do not seem compatible with the fundamental right to the protection of personal data.
The EU Court of Justice declared that proactive filtering by internet access providers and internet hosting providers is illegal. 1 Yet, the EU copyright proposal includes such upload filtering. Over 80 organisations warn:
“The signatories warn the Member states that the discussion around the Copyright Directive are on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture.”
To show the substance behind that sentence, the letter refers in an annex to 29 letters and analyses sent previously by various European stakeholders and experts for more details. A call to action
The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee will vote on the proposal on 25 January. Unfortunately, in this lead committee a significant majority is in favor of upload filters.
The European Commission has asked the EU council a mandate to open negotiations on a multilateral investment court. However, the accompanying impact assessment obscures environmental and social impacts. The council should refuse to provide the mandate. The European Commission published an impact assessment of a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution. The current supranational system is known as investor-to-state dispute settlement or ISDS.
EU Court of Justice’s Advocate General (AG) Melchior Wathelet finds that investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) agreements between EU countries are compatible with the EU treaties. (Opinion in the Achmea v. Slovak republic, the ruling of the Court will follow later.) ISDS gives private parties access to the supranational level to challenge government decisions. The AG sees the ISDS tribunal in question as a court or tribunal common to two EU Member States. Unfortunately, as I will explain below, in his Opinion the AG disregards known issues and options. I will argue that if the AG wouldn’t have disregarded these issues and options, he couldn’t have reached his conclusion.
This position paper is the attachment to the FFII submission to the public consultation on a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution. (blog, pdf)
A multilateral investment court (MIC) would strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights. This undermines our values, ability to reform, and ability to respond to crises, including climate change. Investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) gives private parties access to the supranational level. This discriminates against companies operating locally and comes with systemic issues which create a high risk of expansive interpretations of investors’ rights.
The European Commission has launched a consultation on an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant: a multilateral investment court. 1 The consultation is flawed; it is so narrow that social and environmental impacts may not show up in the consultation results. This is irresponsible, as the system as a whole will strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights. This undermines our values, ability to reform, and ability to respond to crises, including climate change. Mankind faces an existential threat and the commission buries its head in the sand.
Update: The European Parliament gave consent to CETA. It failed to defend democracy. Now national parliaments will have to decide on CETA. There may also be referendums and court cases. See also EDRi’s press release; procedure file; INTA report; roll call vote (point 1, A8-0009/2017).
This FFII position paper provides feedback on the inception impact assessment “Convention to establish a multilateral court on investment” (IIA). See below or the pdf. For the related consultation see here. The IIA’s baseline scenario – what will happen without policy changes – is just one sentence long and does not expect a multilateral investment court (MIC) to have social or environmental impacts. The paper presents more comprehensive baseline and multilateral investment court scenarios.