The European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA) recently released a new report on the permanent investment court proposed by the European Commission within the context of the TTIP negotiations. The report is highly critical of the EU proposal, on two main grounds. First, under the proposed court system, states have the exclusive power to appoint judges, while investors lack any influence over who hears the disputes. This removes a significant benefit of arbitration as a method of dispute resolution, and creates an inherent imbalance between investors and states. Second, the proposed system has two tiers – the Tribunal of First Instance and the Appeals Tribunal – and allows parties to appeal an award on issues of law and fact. This undermines the finality of arbitral awards, and is likely to burden small and medium-size investors by increasing the length and cost of proceedings.
EFILA launched the report at its Annual Conference, held in Paris on 5 February 2016. The event, entitled “Investment Arbitration 2.0?”, brought together experienced arbitration experts, state officials, and representatives of investors to discuss current issues in investment arbitration. Panels discussed such topics as third party funding, the role of tribunal secretaries, and the relationship between investment arbitration and the rule of law.
One session of the conference was dedicated to discussing the EU court proposal. Most, but not all, panelists agreed with the criticisms advanced in the EFILA report. One speaker noted that investors are unlikely to trust the neutrality of judges that are appointed and paid by states. A U.S.-based academic retorted with examples from other permanent international courts showing that state-appointed judges are not necessarily pro-state in how they rule. Another panelist noted that the proposed investment court would not have a secretariat or its own set of arbitration rules, and that it would be impossible to apply a pre-existing set of arbitration rules to the proposed two-tier court structure populated by permanent judges.
Someone commented that the EU proposal “appears half-baked”. Nonetheless, as EFILA secretary-general Nikos Lavranos emphasized, the arbitration community must take it seriously.