POLAND is threatening to block a part of the EU’s trade deal with Canada because of its concerns over a planned mechanism for resolving disputes between governments and multinational companies. How to enshrine investor protection in trade agreements has become an increasingly vexed question for the EU.
Traditional tribunal systems for settling disputes have come in for fierce and growing criticism from campaign groups worried that they can be used by companies as a tool to undermine environmental and social rights.
The EU’s pact with Canada – known as Ceta – contains a different court system intended to address such concerns.
A panel of judges would be appointed to hear cases, consisting of five EU judges, five Canadian judges, and five judges from third countries – a system that Brussels has said would provide improved transparency and democratic oversight.
However, Warsaw is worried that this could lead to cases involving Poland being heard without a Polish judge. It is therefore pushing for the panel to be expanded to include a judge from each of the EU’s current 28 nations. Failing that, it wants clarity on how the EU judges on the panel will be assigned to cases, to ensure that the procedure is fair and does not favour particular countries.