EU Policy. Belgian Presidency seals withdrawal fix from Energy Charter Treaty

	Virginia Mayo / AP
Virginia Mayo / AP Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
By Marta Pacheco
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EU executive proposal seeks to establish member states' positions on modernising the treaty at Energy Charter Conference.

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The EU would be permitted to exit the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) if a deal, which documents reveal was clinched today (March 1) between the European Commission and member states, is approved next week.

The EU executive’s new proposal for the EU Council offers member states the option to approve modernising the international trade agreement which protects fossil fuel investments, at the ECT conference, due in November, while allowing the EU and Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community, to leave the treaty, according to the document.

But the compromise does not imply that EU member states are automatically allowed to remain part of the ECT. They would still require an authorisation from the EU to do so and failure to obtain it would require them to quit the treaty.

“The decisions related to the modernisation of the ECT will be subject to a unanimity vote. If the vote is successful, the decisions for the modernisation of the ECT will be considered “adopted” by the Energy Charter Conference,” the document read.

A Belgian Presidency spokesperson welcomed the commission proposal on modernising the treaty, and told Euronews the presidency would “try breaking the deadlock on the ECT”.

The ECT is an international agreement, in force since the early 1990s, that allows energy companies to sue countries taking measures that could harm their expected profits. The treaty, one of the world's most litigated investment agreements, has been criticised for strong-arming governments, with the commission saying it became “increasingly outdated”.

Paul de Clerck, trade expert at Friends of the Earth Europe, applauded the Belgian Presidency for brokering the deal dubbing it an “historic” moment.

“It is the first time that climate concerns prevail over trade interests. The ECT is a wreck and we are convinced that other member states will follow the examples of Spain, France, Germany, the UK and many others, and also jump ship,” stated de Clerck.

Since last summer, EU talks on the ECT had reached a deadlock. The commission initially proposed a coordinated withdrawal of the EU and all member states, but a number of them advocated for modernisation and continued participation in the treaty.

Nine member states announced their intention to withdraw from the ECT since October 2022 — Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. In the meantime, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Poland have officially notified their withdrawal. The UK announced its withdrawal last week. Italy was the first to quit the treaty in 2016.

The EU Council is set to vote on the exit proposal on March 7 with the parliament's plenary vote planned for March 11.

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