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Intra-EU BIT

Does Achmea Invalidates All Intra-EU BITs? Not necessarily!

On 19 June 2018, the European Commission published a communication on the protection of intra-EU investments (the Communication).

One important take-away from this Communication is the implication that the European Commission draws from the judgment handed down by the Court of the Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) in Achmea.

According to the Commission:

In the Achmea judgment the Court of Justice ruled that the investor-to-State arbitration clauses laid down in intra-EU BITs undermine the system of legal remedies provided for in the EU Treaties and thus jeopardise the autonomy, effectiveness, primacy and direct effect of Union law and the principle of mutual trust between the Member States. Recourse to such clauses undermines the preliminary ruling procedure provided for in Article 267 TFEU, and is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation. This implies that all investor-State arbitration clauses in intra-EU BITS are inapplicable and that any arbitration tribunal established on the basis of such clauses lacks jurisdiction due to the absence of a valid arbitration agreement. As a consequence, national courts are under the obligation to annul any arbitral award rendered on that basis and to refuse to enforce it. Member States that are parties to pending cases, in whatever capacity, must also draw all necessary consequences from the Achmea judgment. Moreover, pursuant to the principle of legal certainty, they are bound to formally terminate their intra-EU BITs.

The Achmea judgment is also relevant for the investor-State arbitration mechanism established in Article 26 of the Energy Charter Treaty as regards intra-EU relations. This provision, if interpreted correctly, does not provide for an investor-State arbitration clause applicable between investors from a Member States of the EU and another Member States of the EU. Given the primacy of Union law, that clause, if interpreted as applying intra-EU, is incompatible with EU primary law and thus inapplicable. Indeed, the reasoning of the Court in Achmea applies equally to the intra-EU application of such a clause which, just like the clauses of intra-EU BITs, opens the possibility of submitting those disputes to a body which is not part of the judicial system of the EU. The fact that the EU is also a party to the Energy Charter Treaty does not affect this conclusion: the participation of the EU in that Treaty has only created rights and obligations between the EU and third countries and has not affected the relations between the EU Member States.” (emphasis added)

In the Q&A that accompanied the Communication, the European Commission also emphasised that the Achmea judgment does not have consequences for agreements with third countries. According to the Commission, Achmeaonly concerns intra-EU disputes” and “different legal considerations apply to external EU investment policies“.

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Shortly after the publication of the judgment in Achmea, my colleague Isabelle Van Damme and I published a first article in which we analysed the potential consequences of this judgment for CETA, for the proposed Multilateral Investment Court and for future EU trade and investment agreements (including the future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom).

Today, I (provocatively) develop that analysis further by arguing that, contrary to the position expressed by the European Commission in its Communication and in the Q&A, the findings of the CJEU in Achmea might not necessarily mark the end of (arbitration clauses in) all intra-EU bilateral investment treaties (intra-EU BITs)*. In addition, I also argue that, in some aspects, Achmea might also affect other types of international agreements concluded by the EU or other BITs concluded by EU Member States with one or more non-EU countries (extra-EU BITs).READ MORE

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Achmea: Potential Consequences for CETA, the Multilateral Investment Court, Brexit and other EU trade and investment agreements

This article has jointly been co-authored with Isabelle Van Damme

On 6 March 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) delivered its long-awaited judgment in Case C-284/16 Achmea. This case raised the issue of whether an arbitration clause in a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) concluded between two EU Member States (intra-EU BIT) is compatible with European Union (EU) law and, in particular, with the autonomy of the EU legal order.

As discussed in two previous posts (here and here), Advocate General Wathelet delivered, on 19 September 2017, an Opinion in strong support of international arbitration. He found that an arbitration clause such as that at issue in Achmea was not incompatible with EU law. The CJEU disagrees.

In this article, we summarise the key findings of the CJEU’s judgment and analyse its potential consequences for the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), for the proposed Multilateral Investment Court and for future EU trade and investment agreements (including the future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom).READ MORE

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Validity of Arbitration Clauses in Intra-EU BITs – Some Thoughts on AG Wathelet’s Opinion in Achmea (Part 2)

Without further delay, here is the second part of my analysis of Advocate General Wathelet (AG Wathelet*)’s opinion (the Opinion) in the Achmea case (check my previous post for a factual background on this case).

As previously discussed, the issue put before the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) in this case concerned the compatibility, with respect to EU law, of an arbitration clause contained in an intra-EU bilateral investment treaty (a BIT).

In the first part of my analysis, I have examined AG Wathelet’s answers to:

– the question regarding the alleged discriminatory character (contrary to Article 18 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) of an arbitration clause contained in an intra-EU BIT; and

– the possibility for arbitral tribunals established in accordance with an intra-EU BIT to refer questions to the CJEU for preliminary rulings.

As promised in my last post, this article now covers the issue of whether an arbitration clause contained in an intra-EU BIT infringes Article 344 TFEU which prohibits EU Member States from submitting a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of EU law to any other method than those provided for in the EU treaties.READ MORE

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Validity of Arbitration Clauses in Intra-EU BITs – Some Thoughts on AG Wathelet’s Opinion in Achmea (Part 1)

On 19 September 2017, Advocate General Wathelet (AG Wathelet)* handed down a long-awaited, surprising and potentially far-reaching opinion (the Opinion) on the compatibility, with respect to EU law, of an arbitration clause contained in an intra-EU bilateral investment treaty.

The dispute at hand concerned a Dutch insurance company, Achmea (Achmea), which had established a subsidiary in Slovakia in order to market private sickness insurance products in this country. In 2008, following a change of legislation in the insurance sector in Slovakia, Achmea initiated investor-State arbitral proceedings against that State on the basis of a bilateral investment treaty (a BIT) entered into in 1991 between the former Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands (the Czechoslovakia-Netherlands BIT). Essentially, Achmea alleged that Slovakia’s legislative amendments violated certain provisions of the BIT.

In 2012, the arbitral tribunal sided with Achmea and issued an award ordering Slovakia to pay Achmea damages of approximately EUR 22 million.

Subsequently, and since the place of arbitration was in Germany, Slovakia brought an action before the German Courts seeking the annulment of the award rendered against it. In those proceedings, Slovakia argued that:

– The arbitration clause contained in the Czechoslovakia-Netherlands BIT infringed the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality contained in Article 18 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). More particularly, Slovakia argued that the arbitration clause contained in the Czechoslovakia-Netherlands BIT was discriminatory since it only offered Dutch investors the possibility to recourse to arbitration to solve their dispute with Slovakia whereas investors of the Member States which had not concluded any BIT with Slovakia were precluded from benefiting from a similar treatment.

– The award rendered against Slovakia was contrary to public policy since the arbitral tribunal established in accordance with the Czechoslovakia-Netherlands BIT – being unable to request the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to give a preliminary rulings on the interpretation of EU law – failed to take account of fundamental principles of EU law (such as rules on the free movement of capital or the rights of defence). This argument was based on the fact that, pursuant to Article 267 of the TFEU, only courts and tribunals of Member States are entitled to request the CJEU to give a preliminary ruling on a matter pending before them. However, the arbitral tribunal established pursuant to the Czechoslovakia-Netherlands BIT was not a “court or tribunal of a Member State” and it was therefore not entitled to request preliminary rulings from the CJEU.

– The arbitration clause contained in the BIT infringed Article 344 TFEU which prohibits EU Member States from submitting a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of EU law to any other method that those provided for in the EU treaties.

Uncertain as to the answers to those issues, the German court stayed the proceedings and referred the matter to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. Prior to the judgment of the CJEU (which will be delivered in the coming weeks/months), AG Wathelet handed down his independent Opinion.READ MORE

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