EU commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem
Brussels - AFP
Cecilia Malmstroem, candidate to take over the sensitive trade portfolio at the European Commission, will sharply criticise Monday a key element of a giant EU-US free trade deal currently under negotiation.
Malmstroem is due to defend her nomination to become the EU's next Trade Commissioner in front of the European Parliament and her testimony regarding an ambitious EU-US trade deal will be closely watched.
In a first version of her prepared answers, Malmstroem says outright that she is against ISDS, a controversial legal mechanism backed by Washington whereby foreign companies can resolve disputes with governments directly in the courts.
Activists, many members of European Parliament and the EU's most powerful country Germany worry this would overly favour corporate interests at the expense of US and European consumers.
However, in the version published on the parliament's website Monday, this line has been modified to a more nuanced though still opposed position.
Quoting Jean-Claude Junker, who will head the new Commission, Malmstroem will say the EU's executive will "not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States is limited by special regimes for investor disputes."
"The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also be applied in this context," she adds.
Her comment comes as EU and US negotiators meet in Washington for the seventh round of talks to reach the landmark deal that would bring together the world's two biggest markets.
But resistance has grown since the talks began more than a year ago.
Beyond ISDS, critics are worried that the deal is being negotiated behind closed doors to the benefit of corporate interests.
In her published testimony, Malmstroem attempted to address these concerns.
"Transparency is a key aspect of gaining trust and legitimacy," she said, adding that it was "a manner of working which I intend to continue pursuing."