Extractive industries transparency: a première in the European Parliament

Last month, the European Commission made a huge leap forward in the fight against corruption. It published proposals for a new EU-wide law that will oblige European oil, gas, mining, and forestry companies to publish what they pay to governments around the world.

ONE, along with dozens of transparency groups in Africa, has welcomed this move, because it will give citizens of resource-rich countries the information they need to hold their leaders and companies accountable. “The EU draft resolutions could not have come at a better time for Uganda,” wrote the Ugandan Observer, as the country grapples with corruption charges over secret deals signed over its recently discovered oil reserves. For too long, African countries have remained poor despite their wealth in natural resources such as oil and minerals, because of murky deals between their governments and multinational extractive companies. Nobody really knows how much money they receive in exchange for their natural resources, or how that money is spent.

Now, some of this is about to change with the European Commission’s bold move. By obliging extractive and forestry companies listed in the EU, and even large unlisted companies, to publish information on their payments to foreign governments, the European Commission has taken a couple of steps further than the US, which passed similar legislation last year. But the EU proposals also contains a few important loopholes that we want to close – you can read more about those here. We are not there yet….before these proposals turn into law, they have to go through a complex EU decision making procedure.

The 736-member European Parliament and the European Council representing the 27 EU Member States have to both agree in order for the legislation to pass. ONE, along with the Publish What You Pay coalition, is now starting to reach out to Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”), to garner support for these crucial transparency measures. Last week, ONE organized a briefing session in the European Parliament to introduce key MEPs and European Parliament staff to the new proposals and what’s at stake.

Thijs Berman MEP generously hosted and moderated the session, and we had guest speakers from Global Witness and from Publish What You Pay. The breakfast briefing attracted around 40 people, mostly European Parliament staff who will be working on this issue, and also representatives from the European Commission, the extractives industry, and key NGOs including Oxfam and Eurodad.

This marks – with a bang – the beginning of a season of parliamentary campaigning on transparency. At ONE we are looking forward to working with the European Parliament, and we will keep you posted, as your voice will be needed all the way through!