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Respected business website INFOBAE informs that Banco Galicia of Argentina became a signatory to the EPs on March 19. The Buenos Aires based news service reveals Banco will adhere to the Equator Principles, making it the first Equator Principle Financial Institution (EPFI) from Argentina, and the first from Latin America’s Southern Cone. 
Banco Galicia is quoted as saying it will apply the Equator Principles to project finance of AR$15 million, equivalent to US$5m or half of minimum amount of investment suggested by the principles. Despite press and civil society being aware of Banco Galicia ’s Equator Principle commitments the EP secretariat is none the wiser.
Three weeks ago, Sweden’s Nordea Bank confirmed to a Danish journalist investigating the bank’s involvement in Botnia’s controversial pulp mill in that it had adopted the Equator Principles.
When asked by BankTrack to confirm whether or not Nordea and Banco Galicia were EPFIs, the Equator Principle Secretariat replied:
‘Nordea Bank and Banco Galicia both have not signed on to the Equator Principles. They are not Equator Principles Financial Institutions (EPFIs). Once they adopt, we're sure to provide you with their adopting information on the Equator Principles website.’
BankTrack called Nordea on the 21 of March and was informed by the bank’s compliance department that it had adopted the Equator Principles one month ago, adhering as of 21 February 2007. Nordea told BankTrack it had not yet advised the EP secretariat due to an administrative delay.
Nordea Bank also faces accusations of violating the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for financing Botnia’s pulp mill in after it replaced fellow Equator Principle signatory ING Group as lead arranger for the project. BankTrack member group CEDHA will present the complaint in front of the OECD in Stockholm tomorrow.
Confusion surrounding the process to sign on the Equator Principles is part of a wider problem of implementation and accountability of the Principles, which are considered the flagship standards for private financers, benchmarking environmental and social performance of multi-million dollar projects throughout the world.
Implementation of the Principles is left entirely to the discretion of the EPFI itself. David Barnden, the coordinator of BankTrack’s Human Rights program, comments:
‘The Equator Principles cannot be enforced, and there is no mechanism to judge or confirm compliance. More importantly, the Equator Principles lack procedures for stakeholders to bring complaints to the multinational banks investing capital and reaping profits from projects which pose serious threats to local communities and the environment.’