Lying to get ISDS through the European Parliament

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Europeans are increasingly against the trade agreement. Are lobbyists pushing too hard? Brussels, 29 April. [Joel Schalit/Flickr]

BusinessEurope, and especially its Director Genernal, should be factual and truthful when lobbying the European Parliament on ISDS and TTIP, argue Bart Staes and Molly Scott Cato.

Bart Staes and Molly Scott Cato are members of the European Parliament for the Group of the Greens/EFA.

We denounce the lobbying tactics of Mr Beyrer, Director-General of leading business advocate group BusinessEurope, for the contentious Investor-state Dispute System (ISDS) within TTIP. A lobby email that mr Beyrer sent last week to Gianni Pittella, the chairman of the S&D group and S&D-members, revealed how ‘important’ facts and truth are to BusinessEurope and their corporate friends across the Atlantic.

In the email Beyrer calls upon the S&D to vote in favour of the contested arbitrage mechanism ISDS:

“In view of [this] week’s plenary vote on the TTIP resolution, we call on you to give your support to the compromise reached within the INTA Committee, especially on investment protection.

The wording adopted is in our opinion balanced and allowed a wide majority of INTA Members to vote in favor of a resolution that reaffirms the guiding role of the European Parliament in the most important bilateral trade negotiation the EU is conducting, at a time where developments at WTO level are not showing enough progress.

Destroying the compromise would seriously endanger the possibility for the European Parliament to have a say and give momentum to the negotiations in a crucial time just before the US Presidential Elections. This would be a missed opportunity for the whole European Union, would weaken the negotiating position of the Commission and ultimately undermine a strong TTIP for Europe.

In light of the above, considering all the efforts put in so far by Members of the Parliament and the fact that none of the opinion-giving Committees explicitly asked at this stage for the exclusion of ISDS, we urge you to give your favourable vote to the INTA compromise next week. Yours sincerely, Markus Beyrer.”

In written we reminded Beyrer that his last statement is false: “As ENVI-rapporteur of opinion of one of the most important legislative committees (environment, public health and food safety) I (MEP Staes) think mr Beyrer should know that ENVI adopted my report with a majority of 59 votes, by 8 against and 2 abstentions.”

Paragraph 17 of this opinion reads as follows: “17. Calls on the Commission to oppose the inclusion of ISDS in the TTIP as, on the one hand, this mechanism risks fundamentally undermining the sovereign rights of the EU, its Member States and regional and local authorities to adopt regulations on public health, food safety and the environment, and, on the other hand, it should be up to the courts of the EU and/or of the Member States providing effective legal protection based on democratic legitimacy to decide all expectable dispute cases competently, efficiently and in a cost-saving manner;”

And the reply to Mr Beyrer continued: “At least three other committees from the EP adopted similar paragraphs.” We therefore urged Mr Beyrer to try to be correct when lobbying on behalf of his business and investors community clients.

Voting and Values

In fact the email provides another “evidence of the influence of corporate lobbying on the controversial EU-US TTIP trade deal negotiations.”

The Director General of the lobby group requests that ‘efficient and reliable instruments to enforce investors’ rights are put in place.’ The email also calls on MEPs to endorse a compromise amendment reached in the Trade Committee last week on the ISDS clause, which would potentially allow corporations the right to sue governments over laws which affect their profits, even if these laws protect public health or workers’ rights.

Greens have always made an explicit stand against ISDS and voted against the amendment in the Trade Committee last week. This blatant business lobbying reveals perhaps why MEPs are lowering their guard against a treaty that is a serious threat to our democracy, workers’ rights and our environmental standards. This email again demonstrates clearly that TTIP has become a corporate charter and big business are pressuring MEPs to ride roughshod over our hard-fought-for social and environmental standards on the premise that such standards are a barrier to business. We will see in Wednesday plenary (10/06) vote whether MEPs – and the socialists in particular – vote according to the values they profess to hold or whether they cave in to the business lobby.

Greens say nine out of ten lobby contacts during the preparatory phase of the TTIP negotiations were with companies and corporate lobby groups , and accuse the business lobby of co-writing the TTIP agenda. A recent European Commission consultation on the ISDS clause revealed a 97% rejection rate by respondents.

Twisting with facts

Business Europe is not alone in twisting the facts when it comes to TTIP. The European Commission for example showed several times it doesn’t care much about bending the truth in their advantage, also on ISDS. In March this year, the Commission published a paper titled ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement: some facts and figures‘. On page 4 of their paper they state that 48% of the ISDS cases is ‘brought by medium and large enterprises’.

However, while paraphrasing a study published by the OECD, they forgot to mention that that OECD study mentions that almost half of all ISDS cases came from “medium and large Multinational enterprises (MNE’s).”

Is it really a coincidence that the EC mentions ‘medium and large enterprises’, and leaves out the word ‘Multinational enterprises’? Of course it is not: the EC knows very well after receiving tons of complaints by EU citizens on ISDS that they do not want extra-legal possibilities for multinationals to sue their governments, when those make laws that protect the general good. From our reading of the OECD figures one can state that more than half of all ISDS cases came from Multinational enterprises (MNE’s), while the EC states that those account for only 8%. Dear EC, being creative with figures and statistics is as old as the road to Rome, but whether deliberate or not, you should be aware that this does not help with restoring trust.

It only confirms our growing conviction that this EC is suffering from severe tunnel vision and really believes that carrying out the wish list of Big business will help the EU and Europeans. Quod non.

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