Press Release / April 23, 2012

EU must not allow big oil to undermine vital transparency law

Read more about the campaign at

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the European Parliament's Legal Affairs committee, Global Witness staged a parade of “dictators” in protest at plans to water down upcoming European laws to make oil, mining and timber companies more transparent about the billions of dollars that they pay in revenues to countries around the world.  Time and time again Global Witness has highlighted how opaque money flows get squandered and embezzled, leaving ordinary citizens mired in poverty.

The “dictators” – representing some of the world’s most autocratic and opaque regimes - will visit the European Commission, Council and Parliament, and warmly thank the EU for introducing exemptions into the proposed law which would allow any country to prevent this vital financial reporting by passing a blocking law in their own countries.

The exemption clause was introduced by the Commission following pressure from industry lobbyists, who claimed that disclosing revenue information may violate laws in producer countries. Global Witness and other groups have challenged the industry to produce a credible example but so far, none have been forthcoming. Existing contracts between oil companies and governments around the world routinely allow exemptions to confidentiality when a company is required to disclose information by any securities exchange. Including a new exemption in the EU law will be a dictator’s charter, encouraging tyrants who want to block disclosure to pass a new law in their countries banning such disclosure and thus, over-ride the EU’s own laws.

 “Dictators and corrupt officials around the world will be cheering if the European Union gives in to pressure from oil and mining companies and allows exemptions to the EU’s transparency law,” said Simon Taylor, a Founding Director of Global Witness. “There is no evidence at all that this clause is necessary. It creates a perverse incentive as it will encourage corrupt dictators to pass blocking legislation in their own countries and continue to keep some of the most vulnerable citizens in the dark”. 

Global Witness and other civil society groups are calling on the European Council and Parliament to stand up to industry lobbyists and strengthen the transparency proposals from the European Commission by ensuring that there are no reporting exemptions for any country in the final law.  


For further details, contact Brendan O’Donnell at [email protected], +44 791 251 7128 or Judith Poultney at [email protected] +44 773 052 9766

Notes to editors:

  1. More information about the stunt and the EU transparency legislation can be found at:
  2. Photos of the dictators’ march on Brussels are available from the Global Witness press office: +44 207 492 5858.
  3. In Angola, for example, official production-sharing agreements (PSAs) allow companies to opt out of confidentiality clauses  when required to disclose information “by any applicable law, regulation or rule (including … any regulation or rule of any regulatory agency, securities commission or securities exchange on which the securities of such Party or of any such Party’s Affiliates are listed)”