By Eric Leikin (Associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer) and Martina Magnarelli (PhD Candidate at University of Lausanne)
Reliance on the investor-state dispute resolution (ISDS) mechanism of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is booming, with at least ten new cases registered in the past year alone. Notably, nine of these ten cases – and almost 60% of all publicly reported cases initiated to date – have been brought by an investor from a Member State of the European Union (EU) against another EU Member State. Not everyone, however, shares the enthusiasm for such “intra-EU ECT claims” – most importantly, the European Commission. In almost all recent cases, the EC has filed amicus curiae submissions attempting to persuade the arbitral tribunal to refuse jurisdiction on the basis that the ECT cannot give rise to intra-EU disputes. The EC concedes that, unlike more than 20 other treaties to which the EU (or its predecessor the EEC) is a party, the ECT does not contain an explicit “disconnection clause” providing that, in the case of conflict, EU rules prevail. Nonetheless, the EC has argued that an implied disconnection clause must be read into the ECT. The EC has also argued that because the EU is a signatory to the ECT, investors from one Member State do not have standing to bring arbitration claims against a fellow Member State, as they are essentially nationals of the same contracting party (i.e., the EU). The question is: Will the EC be successful at shutting off the flow of intra-EU ECT claims, or will the boom continue?