The Achmea case between international law and European Union law

European Papers | 14 January 2019

The Achmea case between international law and European Union law

by Maoro Gatti

Opinion 1/17 in Light of Achmea: Chronicle of an Opinion Foretold?

TABLE OF CONTENTS: I. Introduction. – II. Achmea’s relevance as a precedent for Opinion 1/17. – III. Applica-tion of the Achmea test to the CETA tribunal. – IV. Conclusion: an Opinion foretold?

I. In the Achmea judgment,1 the Court of Justice ruled that the principle of autonomy of EU law prevents two Member States – Slovakia and the Netherlands – from setting up an investor-to-State dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism via a bilateral investment agreement (BIT) inter se.2 Achmea has crucial constitutional relevance: not only does it have a dramatic impact on arbitration within the EU, but might prevent the Union from concluding investment agreements with third countries.

The Court of Justice will soon rule on the later issue: in Opinion procedure 1/17,3 the Court is requested to decide on the compatibility between EU Treaties and the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which includes an investor-to-public authorities dispute settlement mechanism (the Investment Court System, ICS).4 Although the case is pending, several commentators suggested that its outcome is prede-termined by Achmea: the same reasons that motivate the incompatibility between intra-EU arbitration and EU principles in Achmea might imply the inconsistency between CETA and EU Treaties.5 Other authors, however, read Achmea in a different manner: the findings of this judgment are allegedly circumscribed to intra-EU investment agreements and are motivated solely by the specific characteristics of intra-EU arbitration.

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source: European Papers