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Slovenia rejects Investment Court System provision in CETA

Slovenian economic development minister Zdravko Počivalšek.

The Slovenian Press Agency (STA) reports that Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek rejects the inclusion of the Investment Court System (ICS) in CETA.

The minister made this statement after the meeting of the Council of the European Union (where national government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies) on Friday May 13. Significantly, that grouping agreed on Friday that CETA is a ‘mixed agreement’ and that its ratification will require the approval of all 28 EU member states.

In June 2015, a Government of Slovenia media release stated, “Slovenia has substantive, general and scrutiny reservations concerning individual elements proposed by the European Commission as possible methods for reforming the EU’s investment policy and the investment chapter in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). …In Slovenia’s view, the [European Commission document that includes a reflection on investment policy and on the establishment of a permanent international investment court] does not significantly upgrade the existing system for protecting investments and raises several questions.”

The Central European country, located to the east of Italy, joined the European Union in 2004. It is a parliamentary democracy led by prime minister Miro Cerar of the Modern Centre Party. His party holds 36 of the 90 seats in the Slovenian National Assembly. Slovenia also has eight seats in the European Parliament.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow agrees with the Slovenian government’s concerns about ICS.

She says, “ICS fails to require foreign investors – like everyone else, including domestic investors – to go to a country’s domestic courts before seeking an international remedy. The proposed investment court system still gives a special status to foreign corporations by allowing them to challenge the laws that apply to everyone else through a special system outside established court systems.”

Barlow visited the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana on April 21-22. There she took part in a debate at the National Legislature on CETA and TTIP. She also participated in a high-profile panel debate that agreed that the inclusion of the right to drinking water in the Slovenian Constitution is only the first step towards full protection of this human right. CETA would limit the capacity of local, regional and national governments to decide how to deliver public services, such as water supply and sanitation. ICS would allow corporations to challenge the remunicipalization of privatized services.

The current plans are for CETA to be signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Union representatives at a Canada-EU summit in Brussels on October 27. The ratification process would follow from that, including both a vote at the European Parliament and votes in all EU member state legislatures.

But there is significant opposition growing among EU member states. In the last year alone, Slovenia, Bulgaria, the German states of Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rheinland Pfalz, Wallonia, Romania, the French Community of Belgium, and Hungary have expressed their opposition to CETA. To see a fuller list and explanation of member state opposition to CETA, please click here.

In November 2015, Barlow spoke against CETA in Dundee, Leeds, London, Oxford, Cardiff, Dublin, Madrid, Barcelona, Vienna, Karlsruhe and Paris. This April, she also spoke against CETA in Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels and Ljubljana. And this Monday May 16 she will be in London for a public event at King’s College London and a protest in front of the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom.