By Professor David Collins, The City Law School
Scarcely covered by the mainstream media, this Thursday (22 Feb 2024) the UK announced the withdrawal from the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), following nine EU Member States, including G7 countries France, Germany and Italy.
Entering into force in 1998 and signed by the UK in 1994, the ECT is an international investment agreement (IIA) designed to encourage foreign direct investment in the energy sector by providing protection to foreign investors against excessive governmental interference, such as expropriation or the denial of justice in administrative or legal proceedings. The ECT has been perhaps the most significant of all the IIAs, spawning more investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) claims than any other single treaty and with it, a host of awards issued by ad hoc tribunals. By falling under the protection of the ECT, foreign investors were granted assurances that they could rely on international law rather than the unfamiliar and unstable legal systems in host countries. Investment in the energy sector is especially needful of stable and reliable legal protections because of the extended period between making an investment and achieving a return. Under the ECT, investors may seek compensation for the loss of their future profits, not merely sustained losses. Many of the investment projects facilitated by the ECT related to infrastructure privatization projects in former Soviet countries.
Very much a product of its time, the ECT faced growing criticism for its continued encouragement of investment into energy derived from fossil fuels, paying insufficient attention to the modern fixation on climate change mitigation via renewable sources. Announcing the UK’s withdrawal, the Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero stated that continued ECT membership was incompatible with the country’s transition towards Net Zero. With this justification in mind, the UK’s withdrawal from the ECT could not have come at a worse time; it was acknowledged recently that the true costs of the UK’s Net Zero transition were wildly understated – costing trillions of pounds more than had been reported to parliament. Government ministers were accused by former Chancellor of the Exchequer of being ‘systematically dishonest’ about the costs of the plans.
Eva Pander Maat and Pia Rebelo
Monday April 18th marked the kick-off of the Global Goals Research Exchange between the Faculty of Law at the University of Groningen and City Law School at City, University of London. The Exchange presents an excellent opportunity to promote collaborative ties between legal researchers doing work in the topical areas of energy transitions and sustainable development. In the first iteration of the exchange, two City Law School researchers crossed the channel to present and discuss their work.
Andrea Maria Pelliconi
On 30 December 2022 – one day after the establishment of the new Israeli government – the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution A/RES/77/247 in which, referring to Article 65 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), it requested the Court to give an advisory opinion (AO) clarifying the legal status and consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestine’s territories. More specifically, the AO request asks the following questions:
“considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and the advisory opinion of the Court of 9 July 2004:
(a) What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?
(b) How do the policies and practices of Israel referred to in paragraph 18(a) above affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?”
Sekander Zulker Nayeen
The concept of international investment law evolved mainly for the purpose of giving protection to foreign investment. That is why only investors can bring a claim of breach of protection standards before the investment arbitral tribunal and the tribunal only follows the concerned International Investment Agreements (IIAs) to determine such breach. However, with the advent of the concept of sustainable development, nowadays, environmental protection of a host State has become a major concern in competition with the investment protection before the investor-state arbitral tribunal. States are now frequently claiming the prevalence of their regulatory power for environmental protection over investment protection. In some cases, for example Glamis v US, the tribunal’s decision was influenced by the State’s regulatory power for environmental protection. In some recent cases, for example Burlington v Ecuador and Perenco v Ecuador, environmental issues arose with some separate standing. In these cases, the tribunals entertained host States’ counterclaims and awarded compensation against the investors. In such backdrop, I would like to have a detour in an arbitral decision wherein environmental issues were raised by the State for the first time. I want to look back how the tribunal had decided that case.
Dr Aldo Zammit Borda
This article considers that, in the current state of international justice, informal People’s Tribunals (PTs) constitute indispensable, quasi-judicial institutions that bridge gaps in access to justice, challenge official narratives (or silences) about atrocities and, potentially, open up new avenues towards justice and recognition.
Dr Aldo Zammit Borda
This article focuses on the challenges of ‘long-delayed’ prosecutions, that is, criminal prosecutions that begin decades after the conflict, using the experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Bangladesh (ICT-BD) as a case study. This issue is still an insufficiently discussed topic even though such prosecutions are likely to become more common in the future. This is because of the greater emphasis that is being placed on fighting impunity around the world, as well as legal and historical reckoning with past atrocities. As one ICT-BD prosecutor put it, the establishment of the ICT-BD in Bangladesh has opened the door for the possibility of accountability in other South Asian countries and more broadly. One day, the political leaders of such countries may find the political will to try perpetrators of mass atrocities even after a long delay. Indeed, it is possible that such prosecutions may become more common:
Andrea Maria Pelliconi, Alex Gilder, Kseniya Oksamytna
United Nations (UN) peace operations are typically a troubled sea to navigate. Peace operations operate in increasingly hostile environments and have to manoeuvre through dangerous waters: continuing insurgencies, ineffective state presence, widespread violence and insecurity, and even terrorist attacks. Stabilisation efforts may carry human rights and humanitarian risks, especially when they come with heavy militarisation, or with mandates that leave the mission without a clear political direction. These dangers bring about potential shortcomings in effectiveness, and even legitimacy challenges. Yet peace operations remain a crucial tool to attempt to advance peace and stability.
Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several nations, led by Canada and Ukraine, suspended the application of the World Trade Organization’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment to Russian goods. MFN is a foundational principle of WTO law, contained in Article I of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It promises that all WTO members will receive the same treatment as each other – the lowest tariffs on all goods offered by each WTO member will be made available to all. The effect of this trade sanction against Russia will not be lost on its president – Vladimir Putin’s masters’ thesis was allegedly on the importance of the MFN principle to international trade. The actual impact of the revocation of MFN on Russia may be less significant and the legal issues behind it are complex and troubling.
Three academics from The City Law School – Elaine Fahey, Panos Koutrakos and Jed Odermatt – have contributed to a new edited volume The EU and its Member States’ Joint Participation in International Agreements (Hart 2022). The volume is based on contributions presented at a workshop held at the University of Geneva in November 2020.
EU law has developed a unique and complex system under which the Union and its Member States can both act under international law, separately, jointly or in parallel. International law was not set up to deal with such complex and hybrid arrangements, which raise questions under both international and EU law. Thie book assesses how EU law has been adapted to cope with the constraints of international law in situations in which the EU and its Member States act jointly in relations with other States and international organisations. Each chapter was jointly written by a team of two authors. The various contributions offer new insights into the tension that continues to exist between EU and international law obligations in relation to the (joint) participation of the EU and its Member States in international agreements.