|European Commission taken to Court over Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline|
Press release from:
European Commission taken to Court over Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline
Human rights groups  today announced that they have applied to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to take the European Commission to court over BP's highly controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline. The court case dramatically increases the political risks that the pipeline's financial backers now face.
The application follows a complaint submitted by Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) to the European Commission in July 2003. The complaint held that the legal agreements underpinning the BTC project break Turkey's obligations under its EU Accession Partnership, triggering the Commission's duty to act in relation to EU pre-accession funding to Turkey.
In response, the Commission undertook to review the NGO complaint in its annual report on Turkey's progress towards accession. However, the Commission has failed to fulfil this pledge. The Corner House and The Kurdish Human Rights Project, together with a landowner directly and adversely affected by the project, have therefore applied to the Court of First Instance of the European Court of Justice (CFI) to take the Commission to court under Articles 230 and 232 of the European Community Treaty.
"We are strongly in favour of Turkey joining the European Union, providing that it meets the obligations laid out in the Copenhagen Criteria", says Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project. "BP has foisted a poor agreement on Turkey which potentially blocks Turkey's accession for the next 60 years. It is important that the European Commission acts to remove this barrier."
"We have a strong case and are determined to press it", says Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House. "These agreements would be illegal in the European Union. BP could resolve the issue by allowing Turkey to remove those elements that conflict with EC law."
A favourable judgment in the CFI would have profound implications for the project, which is backed by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. "It is unlikely that the loan agreements would survive a ruling in our favour", says Nicholas Hildyard. "The court case dramatically alters the political risk profile of the project."
"The European Union made Turkey's accession, and pre-accession funding, conditional upon Turkey moving towards the European acquis. The legal structure set up under the pipeline agreements moves Turkey in the opposite direction", says Philip Moser, the groups' barrister and an expert in European law . "There should be judicial review of the Commission's duty in distributing Community money; in particular if the EU's own guidelines for funding have been breached."