Reclaiming Public Interest in Europe's International Investment Policy
A clear and plain language guide to the EU's neoliberal investment regime, explaining both the social and environmental costs of prying open poor, vulnerable countries' economies, as well as outlining a number of ethical alternatives.
Note from the Editor:
This report has been published at the same time as the EU Commission has released a draft regulation and a Communication on the EU's international investment protection agreements.
Together with the publication, the Seattle to Brussels network (S2B), has issued a press release denouncing the EU Commission for failing to adequately reform international investment agreements, warning that ordinary taxpayers and our environment will suffer as a result. Furthermore, the S2B network has released a civil society statement on the future of Europe's international investment policy. Read the S2B's press release.
Preface, by Susan George
This publication comes at a crucial time. The Lisbon Treaty has given the European Commission added clout; it can now negotiate trade and investment treaties by itself, on behalf of all 27 members States.
Thanks to Lisbon, an already undemocratic Europe has become even less so and is using its broad mandate to inflict as yet untold damage on the rest of the world through a series of apparently technical trade and investment treaties to pry open the markets of poorer, more vulnerable countries.
At home, as well-informed Europeans can tell you, the Commission governs on behalf of a tiny minority and above all on behalf of transnational corporations and banks whose innumerable lobbyists in Brussels are well paid to make sure things stay that way.
The quite different interests of small and medium sized enterprises that provide 90 percent of European employment are disregarded; popular sovereignty is an outdated myth and European citizens are reduced to the status of consumers in an evermore market-oriented, neoliberal space about which they have little to say.
A geopolitical entity — in this case the European Union - unwilling to defend the interests of the vast majority of its own people, one which is busy actively downgrading their public services and hard-won rights, can hardly be expected to care anything about the rights of people elsewhere. Every Bilateral Investment Treaty, every Economic Partnership Agreement that the EU has drawn up with a weaker country has proclaimed this truth anew. All the rights are on the side of the corporations, all the obligations fall upon the treaty's victims. Heads I win, tails you lose. The goal is to satisfy the demands of transnational business to be given everywhere an absolutely free hand.
This business agenda has not changed since the late 1990s when the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, secretly negotiated inside the OECD, was defeated by citizen action.
Similar action is required now, jointly undertaken, shared and coordinated by European citizens with those of the target States. The social, labour and environmental rights of citizens everywhere are jeopardised by treaties imposing total freedom for investors and zero protection for their captive “partners”.
The valiant example of Bolivia shows it is possible to resist.
Do not be put off by the apparent complexity of the issue. Throwing up a smokescreen of complexity is another Commission specialty along with communications and information barriers nearly as difficult to penetrate as the vaults of the European Central Bank.
The basics are simple; those who have written for this publication know them inside out and have explained them here in clear language. Everything you need is in these pages: the best way to undermine a system that has only contempt for democracy is to read, learn, share the knowledge and act.
Susan George, June 2010
President of the Board of the Transnational Institute and honorary president of ATTAC France (Association for Taxation of Financial Transaction to Aid Citizens)
Published by: the Transnational Institute on behalf of the Investment Working Group of the Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B)
Number of pages: 52
Date of publication: 07 July 2010
Authors: Marc Maes, Ross Eventon, Myriam Vander Stichele, Antonio Tricarico, Roberto Sensi, Roos van Os, Pia Eberhardt, Cecilia Olivet
Guest Authors: Julio C. Gambina, Manuel Pérez-Rocha
Editor: Ross Eventon
Translator: Kate Wilson
Design: Ricardo Santos