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Dutch Government drops support for dangerous loophole in European Transparency Law

12th February 2013

Global Witness welcomes the Dutch government’s decision to reject the inclusion of a dangerous loophole in a new European transparency law.

The law will force oil, mining and logging companies to publish the payments they make to governments for natural resources, wherever they operate in the world.

However, extractive companies, including the Netherlands-based oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, are trying hard to water down the law by pushing for an ‘exemptions’ clause to be included.

Companies argue that reporting on payments may be against the law in certain countries, and that therefore they should be exempted from reporting in these countries.  

However, the industry has failed to produce any credible evidence that such laws exist. Furthermore, because of this lack of evidence, the equivalent transparency regulations in the United States do not allow for any exemptions.

In a letter to the Dutch Parliament sent on 8th February 2013, the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs Henk Kamp said that exemptions are “not desirable”, as the Netherlands wants to create “a level playing field for international transparency requirements.”

Extractive companies are also lobbying for a loose definition of a “resource project” in the Directives. This would allow them to lump projects together and conceal large payments made to governments.

Last week the former Shell executive Alan Deveridge and the international financier George Soros criticized the oil industry’s stance on the EU Directives, singling out in particular the obstructive role played by Shell.

Negotiations on the Directives are now entering their final stages. Global Witness is calling on all EU Member States to reject any form of exemptions, and to agree a definition of project that fulfils the Directives’ goal of empowering citizens to track where billions of dollars paid for their country’s natural resources end up.