Change EU investment policy - now is the time!

Public interest, social and environmental policies under threat
31 January 2011
Policy briefing

Bilateral investment treaties (BITs) allow transnational corporations to by-pass domestic courts and sue sovereign states - costing tax payers millions in legal expenses and preventing governments from acting in the best interests of their citizens.

Over the past decades EU member states have signed over 1200 “Bilateral Investment treaties” (BITs) designed to protect their investors abroad. BITs allow multinational corporations the right to challenge governments' social, environmental and economic regulations if they look like they might harm the profitability of their investment.

Bilateral investment treaties are a threat to public policy, democratic governance and the public interest and should alert anybody concerned with environmental and social policies.

The investment dispute settlement mechanisms that are typically an integral part of BITs allow foreign investors to by-pass domestic courts and sue sovereign states before international arbitration panels. BITs have cost taxpayers millions in legal expenses and compensations and are eroding the ability of governments to act in the best interests of their citizens. Bilateral investment treaties are a threat to public policy, democratic governance and the public interest and should alert anybody concerned with environmental and social policies.

There is now a window of opportunity to break away from the current investment policies and to put public interest before corporate profits. The Lisbon Treaty has moved the competence for foreign investments from the 27 European member states to the European Union level. The European Commission, Council and Parliament are at present discussing the content and directions of the future EU investment policy.  

Social movements, human rights, development and environmental organisations as well as trade unions must speak out and push for a balanced investment policy that is not merely concerned with investor rights, but holds investors accountable and promotes and protects public interests, human rights and environmental sustainability.

 

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