European Court sweeps Walloon opposition to CETA off the table

30 April 2019

“CETA has been saved. The Walloon opposition is unfounded. With this verdict, the whole modern trading policy of the European Union also turns out to be built on solid foundations.” Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois responds with satisfaction to the verdict of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) that the foundation of an Investment Court System (ICS) is compatible with EU law. The Investment Court System is a component of the CETA trade agreement between the European Union and Canada.

Positive opinion

In September 2017, Belgium asked the Court for an opinion following resistance against CETA from Wallonia and Brussels. That opinion request was part of the internal Belgian agreement that had been reached between the federal and federal state governments in October 2016 for the signing of CETA. The Court issued a positive judgement on the four sub-questions.

  • The Court judged that the ICS in CETA contained adequate safeguards, since its competences are clearly delineated. Such a court can only compensate disadvantaged investors and cannot prescribe how EU law must be interpreted in the EU. Furthermore, the Joint Committee can adopt interpretations of the provisions of the agreement that are binding, and an appeal procedure can be introduced.
  • Secondly, there is no violation of the general principle of equality for access to the court.
  • Thirdly, CETA contains adequate guarantees for the right of access to an independent and impartial court, including rules regarding the remuneration of its members.
  • Finally, the impartiality and independence of the members is guaranteed by rules on their appointment and possible removal.

Immediately approving CETA

In this way, CETA can finally come fully into force, and all possible uncertainty about its status can be eliminated. In a world with increasing tensions in trading relations and uncertainties as a result of Brexit, this verdict is to be welcomed. “I never had any doubts in this regard because the ICS judges are not permitted to interpret EU law. That’s also why Flanders went ahead with the approval procedure for CETA. I therefore call on the other federal state parliaments and the European member states that have been waiting for this opinion to immediately approve CETA, following in the footsteps of the Flemish Parliament,” Geert Bourgeois concludes.

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