Pipeline May Jeopardize Turkish Entry to European Union

LONDON, United Kingdom, July 10, 2003 (ENS) - The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and gas pipeline now under construction puts Turkey in violation of its accession agreements for entry into the European Union and in violation of international law, according to a coalition of nongovernmental organizations and affected Kurdish individuals.

On Tuesday, the coalition submitted a legal complaint to the European Commission asking for an exercise of the commission's powers under the accession agreements with Turkey.

Friends of the Earth, the Kurdish Human Rights Project, PLATFORM, the Ilisu Dam Campaign and Corner House, and Kurdish people along the pipeline route point out in their submission that under project agreements with the Turkish government, the pipeline consortium is exempt from all Turkish laws that might affect the project, including laws regarding taxes, health and safety, and the environment.

The thousand mile, $3.5 billion pipeline connecting the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea passes through three countries, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia and crosses 20 major rivers. BP, formerly British Petroleum, is the lead company in the BTC pipeline consortium that includes ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Unocal, Inpex, and Delta Hess.

In April 2003, the BTC consortium criticized Turkey's state natural gas and pipeline company BOTAS for bureaucratic delays on the project, and called for BOTAS to be excluded from the project.


The Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea can handle very large crude carriers and can remain open all year. (Photo courtesy BOTAS)
Turkey has applied to become a member of the European Union, but before countries are accepted into the bloc, they must implement the entire body of European law, environmental laws included. The European Commission states that Turkey is "fully resolved to adopt and implement" the EU legal requirements.

In the nongovernmental organizations' submission to the European Commission they state that the pipeline agreement, which is binding for up to 60 years, amounts to a "clear potential breach of Turkey’s future EU law obligations, principally the obligation to accept the supremacy of Community Law."

Under pipeline project agreements, Turkey would have to compensate the pipeline consortium if new laws are introduced that affect the profitability of the project, including laws to protect the environment or to increase human rights or social protection, even if the new laws would bring Turkey into line with European Union statutes.

Turkey has undertaken to implement EU laws on environmental impact assessments, but the coalition's submission to the European Commission contends that the pipeline project violates EU environmental impact assessment requirements on many counts, in particular, the failure to consult properly with those affected by the pipeline.

The complaint is supported by sworn affidavits from villagers affected by the project, who state that they have not been properly consulted. In order to protect their identities their names have not been given.

Kerim Yildiz of the Kurdish Human Rights Project said, “These statements are only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more people who are in the process of filing complaints about the way BP has failed to consult them about or pay them for the use of their land.

BP’s plans took little account of people’s rights in a politically repressive environment, Yildiz said. "It’s a tribute to these people’s bravery that they are willing to speak up in a climate so lacking in freedom of expression.”

BP states that responsibility for protecting human rights is "ultimately borne and led by governments." Still, the company acknowledges a "growing consensus" that corporations have a role to play in promoting and protecting human rights.


Kurdish mother and child (Photo courtesy Kishwork)
According to BP, the company's human rights policies include "explicit support for the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights." BP is a participant in the Global Compact, the United Nations led initiative to promote corporate citizenship which includes human rights and labor standards in its principles.

BP says it contributed to the development of the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights, an agreement reached in December 2000, which provides guidelines on maintaining the safety and security of operations with respect for human rights and basic freedoms.

But last week, 72 human rights and environment groups from 29 countries called for a moratorium on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, arguing that it would worsen the human rights situation along the pipeline route, and that lack of freedom of speech in the region makes proper consultation impossible.

An Amnesty International report published in May warns that agreements signed by the Turkish government and the pipeline consortium effectively create a "rights-free corridor" where the human rights of thousands of people in the region will not be protected.

Amnesty International warns that both the construction and operation of the pipeline could have "devastating effects" on human rights in the region.

Land acquisition and resettlement will disrupt the lives of 30,000 people who will be forced to give up their land rights to make way for the pipeline, Amnesty says, warning that the pipeline will result in limited access to water for local populations.

But BP says that along the BTC pipeline, "detailed land acquisition and compensation procedures are being developed with a view to ensuring that people and enterprises affected by the projects are compensated fairly, in accordance with international practice."

Still, Amnesty warns of inadequate enforcement of health and safety legislation to protect workers and local people, and "a serious risk to the human rights of any individuals who protest against the pipeline."

Amnesty says that the Host Government Agreement (HGA), negotiated between pipeline consortium leader BP and the Turkish government, creates a disincentive for Turkey to protect human rights because the government has agreed to pay compensation to the consortium if pipeline construction or operation is disturbed.

"The agreed upon HGA sets disturbing political and legal precedents," said Zafra Whitcomb, business and human rights associate for the U.S. branch of Amnesty International.


A flow of oil from the Caspian region is of importance to the United States. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit of Turkey welcomes Vice President Dick Cheney to a working dinner in Ankara, Turkey, March 19, 2003. (Photo by David Bohrer courtesy The White House)
"The requirement for Turkey to pay compensation to the consortium for any 'disruption to the economic equilibrium of the project' means that Turkey is caught between an obligation to protect human rights and a disincentive to do so when rights conflict with business imperatives," Whitcomb said.

Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth, commented, "This pipeline would make BP the effective governing power of a large swathe of three countries, with a right to decide which laws apply and which don't. This is hardly what we would call corporate responsibility."

Juniper said, "This oil pipeline would be bad news for local people and the environment. It is time for the government to stop subsiding damaging fossil fuel projects, and instead focus on the clean energies of the future."

Phil Michaels, legal adviser to Friends of the Earth said the host country agreements "clearly and directly prevent Turkey developing its law in the progressive manner needed so that it can take its place at the European table."

The membership of the EU will increase from the current 15 to 25 on May 1, 2004, when Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are due to become members. These 10 countries have all met the requirement to integrate EU environmental laws into their national legal structures.

Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey are also EU candidate countries, but they have not yet completed the pre-accession process which includes the adoption and implementation of EU laws.

If, following the submission of a report and a recommendation from the commission, the European Council decides in December 2004 that Turkey satisfies all political criteria, the EU will begin accession negotiations with Turkey, the commission says.

"The European Commission is the guardian of the accession process," Michaels said, "and has an obligation to act in circumstances such as this where the evidence of Turkey’s failure to comply with its accession obligations is so overwhelming. We expect them to take appropriate action.”

If the European Commission fails to take "appropriate corrective action" on the groups' legal submission, then Friends of the Earth and others will "consider all appropriate legal avenues open to them," the coalition warned.


Map shows in blue the BTC pipeline route. Construction began in April, and completion is expected in late 2004. (Map courtesy UNOCAL)
BP says it is taking care to minimize disruption to environmentally sensitive areas along the pipeline route. The company acknowledges that the physical presence of offshore structures, terminal, pipelines and other infrastructure will result in the long-term conversion of land for industrial purposes.

The construction, operation and decommissioning of facilities can also result in direct and indirect effects such as habitat disturbance and fragmentation, noise intrusion, and increasing access to previously remote areas, resulting in hunting and removal of timber and forest materials, the company admits.

Potential effects can be minimized, BP says, by adopting international standard design specifications and emissions standards, taking oil spill prevention measures, and applying targeted mitigation and improvement measures.

BP says that the 1,000 mile BTC pipeline route has been devised to avoid all internationally designated areas such as wetlands protected under the Ramsar Convention, and sites designated as sensitive by the World Conservation Union-IUCN.

The pipeline has been rerouted to avoid Turkey's Ardhan Forest which is inhabited by Eurasian brown bears and roe deer, BP says. At its closest the pipeline will pass 250 meters (820 feet) from the forest.

In Georgia, the pipeline was routed to avoid the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

The pipeline faces a new court hurdle in Georgia. On June 30 a Georgian district court granted the environmental group Green Alternative the right to sue the government of Georgia for approving the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project. All of the companies in the BP led consortium are also named as defendants in the suit. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

On June 13, the BTC pipeline entered the 120 day approval process of the International Finance Corporation, a part of the World Bank Group, and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. The $3.5 billion construction cost is expected to come 30 percent from BP’s and its partners own capital reserves, and 70 percent from bank loans.

The World Bank has lending guidelines designed to protect local people from the impacts of infrastructure projects, but in the case of the BTC pipeline, according to the Kurdish Human Rights Project, the bank has declined to apply the standard of protection for ethnic minorities such as the Kurds.

Friends of the Earth BTC Pipeline website is online at: http://www.foe.org/camps/intl/institutions/bakuceyhan.html#7

The U.S. Energy Department analysis of Turkish oil and gas is at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/turkey.html

The European Union website on enlargement is at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/enlargement.htm