European activists slam Caspian oil pipeline project

Published September 22nd, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Over Sixty nongovernmental organizations, most of which are European-based, have recently urged international financial institutions and bilateral export credit agencies to deny funding for a multi-billion-dollar oil pipeline project BP and other oil companies have proposed to build across Turkey.  


The planned 1760-kilometer oil pipeline is backed by BP (UK), Unocal (US) Statoil (Norway), Turkiye Petroleum (Turkey), ENI (Italy), TotalFinaElf (France), Itochu Oil (Japan), Delta Hess (US/Saudi Arabia) and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. 


It would stretch from Baku on the Caspian Sea, through T'blisi in Georgia, to the Turkish port city of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean coast. Slated for completion in 2005, it would operate for at least 40 years.  


The BP-Turkey agreement, known as the Host Government Agreement (HGA), creates a corridor running through some of Turkey’s most politically volatile regions. The corridor would effectively be outside the national government’s jurisdiction for the lifetime of the proposed project. The HGA was published in Turkey's Official Gazette on September 2000  


It exempts the companies from obligations under any current or future Turkish law that may threaten the project's profits, including environmental, social and human rights legislation. The only Turkish law not superseded by the agreement is the Constitution, according to the a press release jointly published by a group of NGOs.  


The NGOs claim that the HGA allows the consortium building the pipeline to demand unlimited protection from Turkish security forces, without safeguards against human rights abuses. Under the wording of the agreement, paramilitary units could be placed along the pipeline route to pre-empt “civil disturbance” or “terrorist” activities, they warn.  


Other provisions in the HGA include unfettered access to water, regardless of the needs of local communities, and exemption from liability in the event of an oil spill or any other harm caused by the pipeline consortium, the NGOs say. The Turkish government can intervene only temporarily in the case of an “imminent” and “material” threat to the public, the environment or national security.  


Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth commented: “This is a clear example of why the Earth Summit must deliver global rules on corporate accountability. Left to their own devices, corporations are quite happy to put profits before people. BP wants to waive the rules, destroying the environment and trampling on the rights of local communities with impunity.” 


Nick Hildyard of the Cornerhouse commented: “Turkey is now divided into three countries”, “the area where Turkish law applies; the Kurdish areas under official or de facto military rule; and a strip running the entire length of the country, where BP is the effective government. The MAI was rightly rejected by governments for eroding national sovereignty under pressure from civil society," said Nick Hildyard of the Corner House. "Now these companies are trying to revive the MAI by negotiating directly with undemocratic governments."  


Similar agreements between governments and the oil companies have also been negotiated for Georgia and Azerbaijan. Commenting on the implications for Georgia, Manana Kochladze of Green Alternatives stated: “The requirement to compensate the consortium for any disruption caused to the 'economic equilibrium' of the project by new social and environmental laws severely curtails the development possibilities for our country.” — ( 

© 2002 Mena Report (

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