The Crédit Agricole Group is a unified but decentralised group consisting of 39 Regional Banks, Crédit Agricole S.A. and many subsidiaries. It includes Crédit…
Nr. dodgy deals
International coalition denounces Calyon for its support to Finnish papermill Botnia in Uruguay
Paris, France, May 18 2006
Nine organizations including broad civil society networks in 6 countries, filed a complaint today against Calyon, the international financial investment arm of Crédit Agricole of France, for violations of the Equator Principles, in Calyon's support of the highly controversial Finnish papermill in Uruguay in construction by Botnia. The complaint was modeled after an earlier complaint presented to ING Group of Netherlands, soon after which ING withdrew US$480 million in pledged support to Botnia. The filing will be followed by public protests outside of the French Embassy in Buenos Aires, the headquarters of Calyon and Crédit Agricole in Paris, and launches what will be a rigorous international campaign against Calyon and Crédit Agricole to withdraw its support to the mills being constructed on the Uruguay River, the natural waterway border between Argentina and Uruguay.
The complaint was discussed and prepared in collaboration between the 9 institutions, in 6 countries and consists of 17 pages of evidence that Botnia does not comply with the Social and Environmental Safeguards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and suggests that if Calyon finances Botnia, it will be complicit in violations of human rights and environmental law. These violations have been denounced on numerous occasions by citizens of Gualeguaychú, the Argentine community across the river from the plant site, by CEDHA, by numerous Uruguayan NGOs, by the Argentine government. The CAO (the Compliance Ombudsman of the IFC) later confirmed many of these accusations, and more recently, consultants hired by the World Bank to review cumulative impact studies done by Botnia and ENCE (a second Spanish mill) suggested that on many fronts, the EIAs are inconclusive and further study is needed. A few weeks ago, President Vasquez of Uruguay met with Paul Wolfovitz, president of the World Bank, requesting that the Bank speed up the approval process for the loans, however, and surprisingly, Wolfovitz's answer was less than promising, indicating for the first time,that the Bank WOULD NOT finance these mills for now, since there is no certainty over environmental and social impacts. Vasquez walked away empty-handed.
Calyon claims to be one of the more responsible French banks on corporate social responsibility, and boasts that it is one of the first banks to sign the Equator Principles, an agreement amongst 40+ international banks that promise to invest responsibly and respect IFC's Social and Environmental safeguards. ING Group of the Netherlands withdrew US$480 million pledges to Botnia due to the inconsistencies of the Finnish project with IFC Safeguards, although they would never admit this is the reason, since they might face lawsuits from Botnia.
"It is unfortunate", says Johan Frijns, coordinator of BankTrack (an NGO network that has been working closely with groups in Argentina on advocacy before the financial backers of the Botnia and ENCE mills), "that Calyon, another Equator Bank, has stepped into this arrangement. ING did the right thing and pulled its investments."
Friends of the Earth Uruguay (Redes), Friends of the Earth Argentina, FOE International, Friends of the Earth Finland, Amis de la Terre France, along with CEDHA of Argentina, Banktrack - Netherlands, Guayubira of Uruguay, and the World Rainforest Movement united forces to confront Calyon. The complaint and advocacy action to follow is in close collaboration with the Citizens Environmental Assembly of Gualeguaychú, who protested yesterday before the Swedish Embassy in Buenos Aires, against the Swedish based NORDEA, also for its support to Botnia. Protests will now move in the next few days to the French Embassy, and with help from European based groups, to Calyon and Crédit Agricole offices in Paris.
A nascent international civil society movement is emerging bringing together organizations, networks and other advocates like Ecologistas en Acción of Spain who are pursing Spanish financing to ENCE, fueling the fire already burning on this international controversy. At the recent EU-Latin American Summit in Vienna, Argentine president Nestor Kirchner slammed European governments for exporting contaminating industries to developing countries.
Growing international opposition against these mills promises a bleak future for Botnia and its financial supporters like Calyon and NORDEA. Calyon will have to face being seen as the black sheep of the Equator Banks, something that will surely hurt its public image, and its intentions to be seen as the "good" and "responsible" French Bank.
Read the letter of compliant here.
Jorge Daniel Taillant. Centro de Derechos Humanos y Ambiente (CEDHA)
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