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Austria's ECA officially declares pull-out of Ilisu dam project
Commercial banks expected to follow example - decision strengthens resistance in Turkey
Vienna, Austria, Jul 6 2009
Finally it is official: Rudolf Scholten, the head of the Austrian export credit agency Oesterreichische Kontrollbank (OeKB), declared this evening that the OeKB will disengage from the Ilisu dam project in eastern Turkey. Never before has a contract with an export credit agency been cancelled for social, cultural or ecological reasons. "This is one of the biggest successes by NGOs in Europe in recent years, and marks an important victory on the path to the final end of the Ilisu project", said Ulrich Eichelmann of the Stop Ilisu Campaign. "This decision turns ,Ilisu' into an internationally known symbol for wrong and reckless economic policy", continued Mr. Eichelmann.
Turkey's declaration that they will build the dam by themselves and begin construction shortly seems unrealistic. The loss of European funding will cause a significant delay in the construction schedule at the very least. The project's negative international reputation as well as ongoing opposition will discourage new companies and investors. In the meantime the already enormous public opposition in Turkey will increase.
Austria, Germany and Switzerland's pull-out is the result of years of struggle and intense campaining, in Europe as well as in Turkey. In March 2007 the three countries signed a contract with Turkey, strongly committing themselves to carrying out the project together with construction firms and banks. No other dam project has stirred so much excitement and attention in recent years. Hundreds of protest actions, press activities and events lead to this turn-around. "The chances that the Ilisu project will effectively be impeded have never been as high as today. We will continue our work and do our utmost to stop the project and have the region declared UNESCO world heritage instead", says Thomas Wenidoppler of ECA Watch Austria.
What are the implications of the European retreat?
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