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International investments: towards a comprehensive European policy

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International investments: towards a comprehensive European policy

The European Union (EU) establishes the foundations of a new European policy as regards international investments. This policy should be based on the new powers attributed to the EU to remove the obstacles to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) transactions. Whilst the EU is the leading issuer of and global destination for FDI, emerging markets are becoming more and more active in this area.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Towards a comprehensive European international investment policy [COM(2010) 343 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The Commission presents a strategy to prepare a new European policy for international investment.

Since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union (EU) has exclusive competence to introduce the progressive liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) transactions *. A new European policy should thus enable the treatment of foreign investors in the EU to be improved, and access for European investors to third-country markets to be facilitated.

The foundations of a common policy

European investors in third countries should be able to benefit from a favourable and stable environment, particularly in countries where the legal, political or economic conditions are insufficient to guarantee the certainty of investments. Thus, at the present time, EU countries conclude Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with third countries, in order to obtain guarantees on the treatment of their investors. However, this situation creates unequal conditions of competition between European investors.

In the future, the EU should obtain guarantees through trade negotiations. Its trade partners should commit to protecting and facilitating the flow of all forms of European investment. The EU may also conclude stand-alone investment agreements with certain countries (in particular with China or Russia), in order to increase the degree of cooperation in one specific trade sector or for all types of investments.

Foreign investors in the EU should in turn benefit from a level playing field and uniform and optimum conditions.

Finally, a common policy should enable investors’ needs to be better addressed at every stage (planning, admission to a country, etc.). EU countries should also be able to adopt measures to promote investment, at national, regional and local levels, in particular through tax incentives or technical assistance.

A common negotiation agenda

Each trade partnership is unique, according to existing relations between partner States. Nevertheless, the Commission identifies a number of principles which should frame its future negotiations as regards international investments. These are:

  • selection criteria for partner countries, which take into account the guarantees offered to European investors (fair and predictable treatment, political and institutional stability, economic potential, etc) and the degree of trade cooperation;
  • the treatment of investment-related fields, in order to cover all transactions concerning the acquisition or establishment of enterprises (costs of fund transfers, payments, intellectual property rights, etc);
  • investment protection standards, specifically concerning the fair treatment of investors, legal certainty, the principle of proportionality of public action and also expropriation rights and the freedom to transfer funds;
  • the implementation of commitments concerning FDI, for example to guarantee transparency or the proper regulation of litigation;
  • States’ international responsibility, in particular concerning the payment of financial compensation.

These principles are to be formalised by a Commission Recommendation.

Key terms

  • Foreign Direct Investment: any foreign investment which serves to establish lasting and direct links with an undertaking whose capital is employed to carry out an economic activity. Such investments may enable shareholders to participate in the management or control of a company.


Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing transitional arrangements for bilateral investment agreements between Member States and third countries [COM(2010) 344 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. The Commission proposes a transitional framework for implementing international investment agreements. This framework should allow existing agreements to be maintained and conditions to be laid down for future agreements.

Codecision procedure: (COD/2010/197)

Last updated: 10.09.2010