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EU energy pact reform is 'failing abysmally'

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-11-24 10:12

The European Union's attempt to modernize a much-criticized treaty that oversees cross-border cooperation in the energy sector looked to have fallen apart on Tuesday, when nations including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain abstained from an important vote.

According to the European television news network Euronews, the abstentions not only thwarted the EU's immediate attempt to update the Energy Charter Treaty but may have also signaled its end, because Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain have all reportedly signaled that they are either considering leaving, or have decided to leave, the confines of the controversial legislation.

The treaty currently applies to all EU countries, as well as Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

"Even if we were to modernize the treaty, it is difficult to say how long that would take," a diplomat told the broadcaster on condition of anonymity.

Euronews said the treaty, which was signed in 1994 and which has 53 signatories, is believed to be one of the most litigated investment agreements in the world.

The nations that abstained from the vote on whether to begin modernizing the treaty said they did so because they feared the legislation will prevent them from making the changes they need to make to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and tackle global warming.

The treaty has reportedly been controversial among EU member nations because it makes it possible for investors and companies to sue governments and claim compensation, if government policies cause them to lose money. Environmentalists have said the provision protects fossil fuel companies at a time when they should be being phased out as part of the battle against climate change.

According to the PA Media news agency, environmentalists have also urged the UK to turn its back on the treaty.

Amandine Van Den Berghe, a lawyer with the environmental legal charity ClientEarth, told PA: "It's only a matter of time before the controversial Energy Charter Treaty is abandoned in Europe… The EU's push to reform it is currently failing abysmally."

Van Den Berghe said the Energy Charter Treaty is "one of the biggest obstructions to the energy transition that exists today".

"The UK really shouldn't be left behind this movement," she said.

The European Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU, needed the support of all of the bloc's 27 member nations before it could move forward with its plans to update the treaty.

A spokesman for the commission told reporters: "On next steps, we will need to discuss with member states, but at this stage, we will not speculate on what will happen."

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