Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

MEPs call for EU to clean up oil, mining industries

  • Oil spill in Niger Delta - Nigeria is a byword for oil sector corruption and negligence (Photo: Sosialistisk Ungdom - SU)

The European Parliament has urged EU countries to clean up the mining and oil industries by publishing what companies pay to get their hands on contracts and by giving legal protection to whistleblowers.

The two reports - on financial transparency by German Green MEP Reinhard Butikofer and on safety standards by British Conservative Vicky Ford - were voted through in Strasbourg on Tuesday (13 September). Both texts are not legally binding but show which way the parliament wants the European Commission to go when it proposes new EU laws in the sector later this year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Butikofer report said the commission should: "Establish legally binding requirements for extractive companies to publish their revenue payments for each project and country they invest in, following the example of the US Dodd-Frank bill."

The US bill, which became law in 2010, forces all publicly-listed companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments.

The Butikofer text notes that EU firms have a bad track record of "violating environmental and labour standards and human rights" in developing countries. It adds that "EU companies should be legally liable in their home countries for any violation of human rights, environmental standards or ILO [International Labour Organisation] core labour standards by their subsidiaries abroad".

The Ford report is designed to prevent a repetition of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which flooded the Gulf of Mexico with oil and chemical dispersants last year.

It said: "Employees should be able to declare security failures or risks to competent authorities on an anonymous basis whilst being protected from harassment."

It also called for oil companies to draw up emergency plans for every offshore well they operate, to be held financially liable to an unlimited amount in the event of a spill and for the EU to keep a log of disaster-response assets which can be used if needed.

Ford declined to call for an EU-level oil industry regulator or to impose a moratorium on new drilling until new safety laws are in place. MEPs also rejected an amendment calling for a specific moratorium in the Arctic.

"There has been a suggestion that the EU should have a moratorium on exploration until new legislation is put in place, and a new EU-wide regulator. I believe neither is workable," she said after the vote. "A moratorium now could cause serious damage to our economic growth."

British left-wing MEP Peter Skinner, who put forward the whistleblower clause, noted: "If we are to prevent lethal accidents and disastrous oil spills, workers on rigs must be able to speak out".

For its part, a collection of pro-transparency NGOs called Publish What You Pay, welcomed the Butikofer paper.

"Secrecy in company payments for oil, gas and mineral resources has too often led to corruption, violence and civil war in many countries which are rich in natural resources", its director, Marinke van Riet, said in a written statement.

The Arab Spring has brought to the foreground EU oil industry co-operation with repressive regimes in the region.

EU countries on Tuesday reached political agreement on a set of top-up sanctions on Syria designed to stop EU companies such as Shell and Total from helping President Bashar Assad pump oil to export terminals, AFP reports. The EU earlier this month already imposed a ban on EU oil imports from Syria.

Looking to the future of Libya, British pro-transparency NGO Global Witness last month said: "Both the NTC [rebel leaders] and the Libya Contact Group [the league of anti-Gaddafi countries] have a responsibility to take all necessary steps to ensure that the people of Libya benefit fully from their country's wealth".

Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

With the prolonged lack of rain and high temperatures, fears have emerged over water shortages and droughts decreasing crop yields — prompting calls to use less water and reuse urban wastewater for agricultural irrigation.

EU 'must tax pesticides' to cut use, expert warns

The European Commission put forward a new proposal to reduce pesticides in mid-June. But experts warn that it is based on weak rules, and that European agriculture is stuck in a "permanent pesticide-dependence."

Brazil pitches itself as answer to Ukraine war food shortages

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is pitching his Latin American country as the answer to the world food crisis following the war in Ukraine. The traditional wheat importer has now exported three million tonnes of the grain so far in 2022.

Opinion

Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us