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Amos under pressure over BP pipeline

Press Release from The Baku Ceyhan Campaign
Friends of the Earth
Kurdish Human Rights Project
The Corner House

For immediate release - 14th July 2003

Amos under pressure over BP pipeline

Campaigners unveil legal challenge on Turkey's breach of European law

Development Secretary Baroness Amos will face pressure on Monday not to back a controversial oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea.

Campaigners will call on Amos to block funding for the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan pipeline when they deliver a 'pipeline' made out of more than 4000 letters from people deeply concerned about the environmental and social impacts the pipeline will cause.

Amos is the Minister responsible for Britain's contributions to the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which are both considering funding for the controversial scheme. The demonstration marks the end of the first month of a 4-month consultation period by these banks on funding for the pipeline.

The BP-led, 1,000-mile pipeline would pass through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Also on Monday, campaigners will release a detailed Legal Opinion by leading barrister Phillip Moser, an expert on European law. The Opinion concludes that the pipeline legal agreements, "amount to a clear potential breach of what would be Turkey's EU law obligations, namely accepting the supremacy of Community Law." [1]

According to the campaigners, the project's legal agreements break EU environmental and human rights law, as well as Turkey's EU Accession Partnership.

The agreements exempt the pipeline companies from all Turkish laws that might affect the project. Turkey would also be obliged to pay compensation to the consortium if new laws were introduced that affect the profitability of the project [2]


The Opinion will be released on Monday afternoon at a seminar for investors, MPs and companies, chaired by Richard Howitt MEP, who has specialised on corporate responsibility issues in the oil industry. [3]

Oil giant BP has applied for up to $2.5 billion of what it has termed "free public money", from the World Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and export credit agencies such as the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department. [4]

This will be an early test for Amos, who took over from Clare Short as International Development Secretary in May.

Nicholas Hildyard, of the Corner House, commented,

"Amos is faced with a choice - either to support human rights and development, or to subsidise the company nicknamed Blair Petroleum. The two are not compatible - BP wants to become the effective governing power for a strip of land through three countries, putting its profits above the priorities of people in the region."

The Legal Opinion presents new evidence of how the pipeline plans will undermine development in Turkey, as well as creating human rights problems. Turkey is keen to join the European Union, but will not be able to do so while allowing a project that conflicts with many aspects of European Law.

The Opinion was commissioned by Friends of the Earth, the Kurdish Human Rights Project and the Corner House, and has been sent to the Directorate General for Enlargement of the European Commission. The submission to the EC also features individual testimony by Kurdish people whose land will be taken by the project. They state that they will lose their livelihoods, yet they have been neither properly consulted or compensated. [5]

Kerim Yildiz, Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, added,

"It is clear that this project will compound the appalling human rights situation in the Kurdish regions of Turkey. If Turkey is to become part of Europe, it must not accept investments which breach European laws."

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth said, "If the Department for International Development is at all concerned about sustainable development, it must stop the World Bank from funding this destructive pipeline. DfID should not be financing British companies like BP who are profiting from dirty energy schemes which contribute to climate change and to environmental and social destruction. And British companies should not be dictating the laws for the countries they invest in. We hope this Legal Opinon could become a test case on corporate power."

This is just the latest challenge to the beleaguered pipeline. Last month, a Georgian court granted Association "Green Alternative", a Georgian environment group, the right to commence a legal action over serious violations of Georgian law which accompanied the government's green light for the pipeline's construction. [6]

And in May, Amnesty International warned that the legal agreements would create a "rights-free corridor". The respected human rights group argued that "We must not allow this kind of precedent to be set, and the UK government should not lend British taxpayers' support to this." [7]

Notes for editors

[1]: Philip Moser, a barrister with the European Law Group at 4 Paper Buildings, Temple, is a widely acknowledged specialist in European Law. His Opinion is available on request, from the above contacts.

[2]: The project agreements consist on an Intergovernmental Government, plus a set of three Host Government Agreements.

The preamble of the Intergovernmental Agreement signed between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three states through which the pipeline passes, states:

". . . the Intergovernmental Agreement shall become effective as law of the Republic of Turkey and (with respect to the subject matter thereof) prevailing over all other Turkish Law (other than the Constitution) and the terms of such agreement shall be the binding obligation of the Republic of Turkey under international law . . . "

The Host Government Agreement for Turkey contains a 'stabilisation clause', where if anything threatens the "Economic Equilibrium" of the Project, then Turkey and other states shall (HGA, Art.7.2(xi)):

"...take all action available to them to restore the Economic Equilibrium established under the Project Agreements if and to the extent the Economic Equilibrium is disrupted or negatively affected, directly or indirectly, as a result of any change in Turkish law (including any Turkish laws regarding taxes, health and safety and the environment). .this shall include the obligation to take all appropriate measures to resolve promptly by whatever means may be necessary, including by way of exemption, legislation, decree and/or other authoritative acts, any conflict or anomaly between any Project Agreement and ... Turkish law."

The agreements are available online at

[3]: The seminar will be at 2.00pm on Monday 14th JULY 2003, at 11 Carlton House Terrace. Speakers will be:
Phillip Moser, barrister
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Rights Project
Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House
Phil Michaels, Solicitor Friends of the Earth
Miriam Carrion, barrister

[4]: BP Chief Executive Officer John Browne, quoted in Financial Times, 4 November 1998, 'Wisdom of Baku pipeline queried', p.4.

The $3.5 billion pipeline construction cost will come 30% from BP's and its partners' own capital reserves, and 70% from bank loans. The International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank) and the European Bank of Reconstruction & Development are leading the loan package. Their formal consideration of the project involves a 120-day consultation and disclosure period, which began on 11th June 2003. During this period, banks will request comment from concerned parties, including the British public.

The rest of the loans will come from commercial banks, supported by public money, through export credit agencies, such as the UK Government's Export Credits Guarantee Department.

[5]: The Legal Opinion, together with a letter requesting action by the European Commission, was sent last week, by the Kurdish Human Rights Project, Friends of the Earth, the Ilisu Dam Campaign and the Corner House, plus five Kurdish individuals living on the route of the pipeline in Turkey. More individuals are expected to join the action.

The letter and individual testimonies are available on request from the above contacts.

[6]: see Green Alternative press release, 'BP pipeline faces court challenge in Georgia', 27 June 2003

[7]: see Amnesty International UK press release, 'Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project puts human rights on the line', 20 May 2003