- On April 24, 2015
- Energy, Energy Charter Treaty, Italy
Italy is withdrawing from the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). The official reason appears to be Italy’s budgetary constraints. This is questionable, to say the least. Italy’s last contribution to the Energy Charter Secretariat’s budget was a mere EUR 370,203.
The unsatisfactory explanation for this momentous event should not be readily entertained. Those who have been following the development of the Energy Charter process in all its political, legal, financial and administrative facets will no doubt continue to search for the real reason(s). One can think of many; but this is not the time or place to aggravate the situation by digging a bit deeper. I suspect the real reason might ultimately boil down to a clash of personalities. It could be as pedantic and as silly as that.
Of course, the wider political ramifications of Italy’s withdrawal, after Russia terminated its provisional application in 2009, must not be underplayed. This avoidance attitude will most likely backfire. The urgency of a serious, open and intelligent debate is needed more than ever. One issue that needs to be faced openly is true leadership. This should be a priority topic at The Hague Conference scheduled for 20-21 May 2015. There is no other issue as important as this one.
It is expected that the uninformed, or those with personal interests, will endeavour to play down the significance of Italy’s withdrawal. Perhaps by forwarding some quasi-legal arguments. One such argument is that since the European Union is a Contracting Party to the ECT and since Italy is a Member State, the impact of Italy’s withdrawal is minuscule. Why? Because (according to those voicing self-serving gibberish) the Treaty of Lisbon has transferred competence for investment to the European Union. Thus the European Union remains bound by the ECT’s obligations. But this argument misses the point; it is above all, unwise. It somehow justifies the withdrawal of other EU Member States. It is of paramount importance to avoid making Italy’s withdrawal a catalyst for others to follow, by putting forward such an argument, whether true or not.
This is not the time to bury heads in the sand. It is time to face the problems that have been simmering, since the organisation was established, head-on. Facing the changing political tide requires an experienced, fearless, visionary and committed leadership; a leadership that listens. Contracting Parties must sound alarm bells. The decision makers and stakeholders who chose to look the other way (for one reason or another) must step aside, and should not try to chew more than they can bite. The nature of the game is much bigger than they can fathom or indeed comprehend.
This note is written by Professor Adnan Amkhan Bayno in his personal capacity, and does not necessarily represent the views of Mena Chambers. A note by Mena Chambers’ legal team on the legal consequences of the Italian withdrawal from the ECT will be published next week.
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