European Economic and Social Committee recommends improvements, clarifications for MIC discussions

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has weighed in on the European Commission’s recommendation for a European Council decision to launch negotiations on the proposed MIC, supporting discussions on ISDS reform while noting areas for improvement.

The European Council already gave its backing last year to the Commission’s recommendation for launching MIC negotiations with interested parties, and approved final negotiating directives.

Since then, the European Commission has continued consultations with stakeholders on the subject and has submitted its proposal to the UNCITRAL Working Group III process for multilateral ISDS reform ahead of its April 2019 meetings.

The EESC opinion, issued on March 22, 2019, says that the committee “welcomes the EU Commission’s efforts towards a multilateral reform of ISDS under the auspices of UNCITRAL and considers it vital that the EU remains open to all approaches and ideas that have surfaced regarding ISDS reform.”

The EESC is a 350-member body that brings together “economic and social interest groups” from across the European Union’s member states. Its role as a consultative body was established and reaffirmed in multiple EU treaties.

The EESC “calls for an improved and more balanced invitation of stakeholders” in that process, and stresses that there are still several key unanswered questions regarding the MIC proposal, including “the scope, the protection of public interest, accessibility and relations with domestic courts.”

Furthermore, the committee notes that there are additional options for addressing concerns over the current international investment regime. These include, for example, “strengthening the domestic judiciary; providing insurance to investors, such as through the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank; dispute prevention; more conciliatory forms of dispute settlement, such as mediation; investment promotion; and State-to-state Dispute Settlement.”