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international litigation blog

Multilateral Investment Court – Belgium Seeks Opinion to CJEU while EU Commission Requests Authorisation to Open Multilateral Negotiations

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As we already discussed in several posts before (here, here, here and here), the European Commission (the Commission) has been pushing forward the establishment of a multilateral investment court (Multilateral Investment Court) in order to address the numerous criticisms concerning the existing investor-State dispute resolution (ISDS) mechanisms.

In essence, the Commission’s proposal aims at dealing with procedural issues arising in the context of ISDS. In this vein the Commission proposes:

(i) The creation of a permanent investment court which would have exclusive jurisdiction to rule on investment claims and would therefore render forum-shopping and multiple parallel proceedings impossible;

(ii) That this permanent court would be composed of a First Instance Tribunal and an Appellate Tribunal;

(iii) That judgments would be made by publicly appointed judges; and

(iv) That proceedings would be transparent and a right to intervene for all interested countries would be provided.

The original idea of the Commission was to institutionalise the system for the resolution of investment disputes within each bilateral investment treaty concluded by the European Union (the EU). Such a system (called the Investment Court System (ICS)) was the method followed during the negotiations for the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The Commission, however, has since realised that, in the long run, this approach would lead to a duplication of the system (since there would be one ICS for each of the different investment treaties entered into by the EU) as well as further administrative and budgetary complexities. In order to address this issue, the EU decided to push its proposal one step further and suggested that, instead of negotiating bilateral ICS, it would seek the establishment of an international court which would have jurisdiction to hear investment disputes.

The idea has received a positive echo from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in July 2017. Indeed, UNCITRAL has agreed to consider a possible reform of the existing ISDS mechanisms and to act as a forum for negotiations in order to consider a reform of the existing systems.

In anticipation of those negotiations (which are scheduled to begin shortly), the Commission published, on 13 September 2017, a Recommendation (the Recommendation) for a Council Decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a Convention establishing a Multilateral Investment Court.

This Recommendation (adopted pursuant to Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) aims (i) at allowing the Council of the EU to authorise the opening of negotiations for the establishment of a Multilateral Investment Court; and (ii) at appointing the Commission as EU representative during those negotiations.READ MORE

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Comparative Analysis: Belgian and Nigerian Courts on Admission of Third Party Challenge Against Arbitral Awards

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On 5 June 2017, I attended a conference in Nairobi on the development of arbitration in Africa. On this occasion, Mr Seyilayo Ojo (Senior Partner at S. O. & C. Legal in Lagos, Nigeria), who participated in a panel on the topic of “Arbitration as a Catalyst for Economic Growth on the Continent“, mentioned the so-called “FIRS” judgment rendered a couple of years ago by a Nigerian court which allowed a third party to challenge an arbitration award*.

This issue has been a hot topic for Belgian practitioners after the Belgian Constitutional Court also recently ruled that third parties should be entitled to lodge third party opposition (tierce opposition) against arbitral awards (we previously discussed this decision on this blog on 7 March 2017 and 28 March 2017). I therefore thought that it would be interesting to draw a comparative analysis between the judgment rendered by the Nigerian court and the judgment rendered by the Belgian Constitutional Court.READ MORE

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Influential U.S. Court of Appeals for 2nd Circ. Holds FSIA Is Sole Basis for Jurisdiction in ICSID Enforcement Proceedings

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On 11 July 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the Second Circuit) rendered a decision in which it held that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (the FSIA) provided the sole basis for jurisdiction over a foreign State in actions to enforce ICSID awards in the United States. Consequently, the Second Circuit also ruled that an award-creditor had to provide notice to the foreign State in order to enforce an ICSID award against that State. This ruling thereby effectively prevents ex parte enforcement of ICSID awards against foreign States in the United States.READ MORE

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Investment Court System – Three Ways to Avoid State-Partiality by Judges

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Since September 2015, the European Commission has been pushing forward a proposal for a new investment court system (ICS) aimed at addressing the numerous criticisms expressed about the existing investor-State dispute resolution (ISDS) mechanisms (see here, here and here for previous posts on this topic).

ISDS is a very sensitive topic since such disputes always place States in the position of respondents. Furthermore, they are seen by many as placing restrictions on a State’s right to sovereignty and right to regulate. In addition, the outcome of these disputes may profoundly impact the financial situation of a State. On top of those concerns, investor-State disputes are generally solved by recourse to international arbitration, a mechanism which is seen by many as lacking consistency, transparency and legitimacy.

In order to address those concerns, the key aspects of the proposal brought forward by the European Union are the following:

– The creation of a permanent investment court which would have exclusive jurisdiction to rule on investment claims and would therefore render forum-shopping and multiple parallel proceedings impossible;

– This permanent court would be composed of a First Instance Tribunal and an Appeal Tribunal;

– Judgements would be made by publicly appointed judges;

– Proceedings would be transparent and a right to intervene for all interested countries would be provided.

While I personally think that the ICS presents a step in the right direction, as it offers possible solutions to the main concerns raised about classical ISDS mechanisms, I do not think, nor pretend, that this proposal is free from any potential flaws.

Indeed, one of the main doubts expressed by many commentators against the ICS relates to the methodology for appointing judges to the First Instance Tribunal and to the Appeal Tribunal. For instance, in respect of the EU-Canada free trade agreement (CETA), it is currently contemplated that judges of the new investment court will be appointed by States and they should only serve a limited term of 5 years renewable once (Article 8.27 of the CETA).

If this appointment procedure is ever adopted, it will certainly not take long before the credibility, legitimacy, independence and neutrality of the whole system starts to be contested by the perception that the judges are biased in favour of States. It is indeed very likely that such a suspicion will quickly arise since those judges will be appointed (even if indirectly) by the States and because their term in office will be subject to re-appointment by those same States (meaning that the judges might be tempted to render decisions more favourable to States in order to be re-appointed).

While it remains to be seen whether the ICS will ever see the light of day, and if so under which form, I hereby suggest three possible alternatives/solutions in order to address the risk of State-partiality by judges.READ MORE

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Recent Developments in Investment Disputes: ICSID, The Energy Charter Treaty, Solar Industry and FSIA

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Arbitration claims for breaches of the Energy Charter Treaty have emerged in the last couple of years, as certain countries have tried to reduce or place restrictions on financially favorable regulatory measures aimed at promoting renewable energy.

Two of those arbitration cases have recently come under the spotlight and I found that it would be interesting to provide you with a general description of those two cases.READ MORE

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International Litigation on Steroids: Citigroup Global Mkts., Inc. v. Fiorilla

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Although the case below does not shed light on any new legal development, it is nevertheless an interesting story which offers a prime example of a plaintiff willing to use each and every possible trick in the context of international litigation and arbitration to (unsuccessfully) achieve his goal.READ MORE

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