LONDON (TrustLaw) – A committee of the European Parliament voted to support strong transparency rules for the oil, gas, mining and logging sectors on Tuesday.
While the final rules still need to be vote on by both the European Commission and individual member states, campaigners are hopeful that the committee’s backing for the rules will encourage them to be passed into law next year.
Following are views from transparency campaigners and others to the committee’s vote:
BRENDAN O’DONNELL, head of Global Witness’ oil campaign
A final EU directive which includes the elements set out by the JURI committee today would be good for industry and citizens alike. Information on payments will give citizens more power to track the money being paid to governments in resource-rich countries to combat oil and mineral sector corruption. The question now is whether Member States will follow through and agree a similarly strong proposal in negotiations with Parliament.
JANA MITTERMAIER, director of the Transparency International EU Office
The result of this vote in the European Parliament will be welcomed by millions in resource-rich developing countries who have been deprived of stolen oil and gas funds. Wealth in some of the poorest countries should no longer stay in the hands of corrupt elites, politicians and industry insiders. The publication of business information on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis is an important step toward greater accountability of governments and corporations worldwide. MEPs have listened to the concerns expressed by thousands of EU citizens about the secrecy surrounding these deals and acted accordingly. We hope that Member State governments take note when they finalise their position in the coming months.
ARLENE MCCARTHY, rapporteur for the European Parliament on the transparency law and Labour MEP
I am pleased the committee has overwhelmingly backed my compromises for a strong law on transparency and disclosure for the extractive industries. The vote is a clear rejection of the 27 Member States' weak proposals for disclosure of country-by-country payments and reporting in the extractive industries. We have not given in to the pressure of industry and government lobbying for a weak transparency regime. We are insisting on project-by-project reporting with a low threshold of 80,000 euros for payment disclosure. We refused to accept exemptions which would create large loopholes in the law.
Project-level disclosure is the only way in which local communities in resource-rich countries are able to expose corruption and hold their governments accountable for using revenues towards development. More importantly, these rules will enable citizens to expose corruption. With this vote we now have a strong negotiating mandate to force the Member States and Commission to accept the Parliament's amendments, putting us on track to create strong global transparency standards, with equivalent rules in the EU and the US.
ELOISE TODD, Brussels director of ONE
Today’s vote brings us one step closer to helping citizens harness the often vast natural resource wealth of their countries to finance the fight against extreme poverty, disease and hunger, and the transformation of their economies to build opportunity for all.
LAURA TAYLOR, head of public policy at Tearfund
Europe has taken a further step towards bringing greater accountability between governments, industry and communities. Meaningful information at a project level will show how much money governments receive from extractive industry operations. As many mining, oil and gas projects are in developing countries, this will ultimately lead to a better deal for the people who are currently in poverty but who are quite literally living on top of their country’s wealth.
When people are better informed they are able to hold their authorities to account and see resources released for development instead of being lost to corruption. This could mean essential services like clean water, healthcare and education, and help to reduce long-term dependency on aid. You have to ask, what company wouldn’t want to be part of that progress?
The European Council members, including the UK, cannot ignore the Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Any watering down of the legislation will short-change millions of people whose lives depend on it.
JOSEPH WILLIAMS, senior advocacy officer, Publish What You Pay
The Legal Affairs Committee has now firmly put the ball into the Council’s court. The US has strong rules, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has voted for an equally ambitious approach and now EU Member States should embrace this emerging global standard for transparency in the extractive sector.
Publish What You Pay has always maintained that similar disclosures should be applicable to other economic sectors. We were therefore delighted to see the Legal Affairs Committee vote for country by country payment disclosure for banking, construction and telecommunications which will help the fight against tax evasion and maximise revenues for developing countries.
We also call on companies, particularly those that are already captured by the US law such as Shell and Rio Tinto, to support this model of disclosure rather than doing everything they can to water down this vital piece of legislation which can empower citizens all over the world in resource-rich countries.
IAN GARY, senior policy manager with Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program
The revolution for transparency in the oil, gas and mining industry is continuing across the Atlantic. Europe’s action today coupled with the US law represents a real step forward in the fight against corruption and the resource curse in developing countries.
Europe and the United States have set bold examples by adopting positions that will champion the rights of the resource-rich poor by giving them project-specific information that will help them hold their governments to account. Oil and mining companies should see this as an opportunity to push other countries to adopt similar legislation and work with civil society groups to ensure the transparency net is cast far and wide.
CATHERINE OLIER, Oxfam’s EU overseas development expert
Today’s vote represents a real step forward in the fight against corruption and the resource curse in developing countries. MEPs have set a bold example by adopting a position that will champion the rights of the resource-rich poor by giving them project-specific information that will help them hold their governments to account. In doing this, citizens can ensure that governments collect the money owed and use it to lift them out of poverty.
MEPs have shown that they are serious about increasing transparency in all sectors by proposing to extend the legislation to the banking, construction and telecommunication industries. This boost in transparency is desperately needed to ensure that citizens of poor countries can finally start to benefit from the resources that have cursed them for so long.
JAVIER PEREIRA, policy officer at Eurodad
Despite today’s promising progress, there is still a long way to go to ensure that this legislation effectively combats issues of corruption that keep people in developing countries in a cycle of poverty. Tax dodging is not easily defeated, so companies should be required to report additional information like sales volumes, assets and profits to put their payments into context. EU governments must now raise the bar by adopting a strong proposal, which should be at least in line with the recently implemented US rules.
DANIEL KAUFMANN, Revenue Watch president
While we still need to see the full text of the proposal, the committee has taken a clear stance in favor of transparency in payments to governments by companies in this sector. The EU’s member states now have the opportunity to adopt a genuinely global transparency standard.
Countries rich in oil and minerals need good governance to harness that wealth for the benefit of their citizens—and transparency by multinational firms will contribute to good governance in many countries and in the industry.