Thursday, 10 April 2008

EU TFEU: Equality for investors

The EU Treaty of Lisbon accords capital investors from other member states equal treatment with nationals of the state of the company or firm. This declaratory or clarifying provision, Article 294 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, is moved into a more logical context within the Treaty of Lisbon, but without added substance.

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In the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL), point 55, the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) decided to shift the location of Article 294 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). See Official Journal, OJ, 17.12.2007 C 306/55:

55) An Article 48a shall be inserted, with the wording of Article 294.

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Our first task is to look up Article 294 TEC, in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, TEU and TEC, in OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/173. We notice that the Article is located in TEC Part Six ‘General and final provisions’, and the contents are the following:

Article 294 TEC

Member States shall accord nationals of the other Member States the same treatment as their own nationals as regards participation in the capital of companies or firms within the meaning of Article 48, without prejudice to the application of the other provisions of this Treaty.

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There is no express amendment of the wording and the only horizontal amendment is to replace ‘this Treaty’ by ‘the Treaties’ according to point 2(b)) in the Lisbon Treaty. We check the numbering in the original Lisbon Treaty and the renumbering for the coming consolidated versions of the provision and the referral, and we add the location of the provision within the treaty for ease of reading. The treaty itself is renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and here is what the provision should look like:


Part Three ‘Policies and internal actions of the Union’

Title III (renumbered Title IV) ‘Free movement of persons, services and capital’

Chapter 2 ‘Right of establishment’

Article 48a TFEU (ToL), renumbered Article 55 TFEU

Member States shall accord nationals of the other Member States the same treatment as their own nationals as regards participation in the capital of companies or firms within the meaning of Article 48 [ToL, renumbered Article 54 TFEU], without prejudice to the application of the other provisions of the Treaties.

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The European Convention initiated the tidying up exercise by placing the provision at the end of Subsection 2 ‘Freedom of establishment’, as Article III-28. Naturally, the preceding Article of the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe referred to was numbered differently and it spoke of the other provisions of the Constitution, but the contents remained the same (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/33).

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The IGC 2004 followed the lead of the draft Constitution in every aspect save one. The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe limited its referral to the second paragraph of the preceding Article (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/63):

Article III-143 Constitution

Member States shall accord nationals of the other Member States the same treatment as their own nationals as regards participation in the capital of companies or firms within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article III-142, without prejudice to the application of the other provisions of the Constitution.

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In other words, the IGC 2007 followed the lead of the European Convention in finding more amenable surroundings for the Article, but by taking over the wording of the present TEC it did not follow the Constitutional Treaty in referring only to the second paragraph of the preceding Article.

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We can easily agree with the conclusion in the ‘Comparative table of the current EC and EU Treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon (Cm 7311; page 8) about Article 55 TFEU (Article 48a ToL): In substance the same as Article 294 TEC.

But we would like to offer a few hints to the readers who want to know what the present (and future) provision might mean in practice.

Not much, it seems. The principle of equal treatment for capital investors follows from other treaty provisions, so the Article is only declaratory. I quote Rudolf Streinz, EUV/EGV, Vertrag über die Europäische Union und Vertrag zur Gründung der Europäischen Gemeinschaft (Verlag C.H. Beck, München 2003; page 2434):

„Art. 294 EGV hat heute keine praktische Bedeutung mehr. Bestenfalls kann der Vorschrift klarstellende Bedeutung zukommen, dass nicht nur die Gründung und Leitung von Unternehmen (vgl. Art. 43 EGV), sondern auch das Halten einer Beteiligung unter die Freiheitsberechtigungen des Vertrages fallen. In seinem persönlichen und sachlichen Anwendungsbereich ist Art. 294 EGV aber subsidiär gegenüber den Grundfreiheiten. Die dem sachlichen Anwendungsbereich nach relevante Niederlassungsfreiheit und die Kapitalverkehrsfreiheit gehen zudem über den Gewährleistungsinhalt des Art. 294 EGV hinaus, weil sie nicht nur Diskriminierungen nach der Staatsangehörigkeit, sondern jegliche Beschränkung verbieten.“

In other words, other provisions on free movement cater for this and more. In due time, we are going to look at the provisions with relevance.


Ralf Grahn