Many developing countries, especially in Africa, have a great wealth of natural resources that could contribute to a positive development if the proceeds from the extraction didn’t disappeared in corruption. In order to give citizens in countries outside Europe tools to combat this corruption, the EU has introduced strict rules to force oil, forestry and mining companies to report all payments they make to governments outside EU.
It´s a tragic paradox that many of the countries that are richest in natural resources in the world also are some of the world’s poorest countries. Each year, Africa’s countries export large amounts of oil, gas and minerals to the EU. If the proceeds from the extraction of these commodities could go to the population of these countries, instead of disappearing to corrupt leaders and bureaucrats, it could greatly help reduce poverty and injustice in the world.
During the last parliamentary term, I had a key role in the European Parliament’s negotiations on transparency. I have worked for a long time to make the rules as comprehensive as possible. In that work, I collaborated with Swedish and international aid organizations, non-profit movements and human rights activists. Thanks to the work of me and my colleagues in the Legal Affairs Committee, the European Parliament improved the EU Commission’s original proposal on a number of points and managed to defend these against the Council of the European Union, where many member states under pressure from the commodity industry tried to hollow out the rules.
For example, we made sure that companies must not only report on payments to governments and agencies at country level, now they also must tie these payments to each individual project in a country, so that it´s possible to follow payments made to local authorities, and thereby reducing opportunities to hide information.
The European Parliament also made sure that the limit for the payments to be included in the accounts was set at payments exceeding EUR 100,000 instead of EUR 1 million that was advocated by the Council of the European Union.
This reform to increase transparency in the commodity industry has been welcomed as one of the most important in a long time by international aid organizations. Hopefully our work will help reduce corruption and increase growth in resource-rich, but often poor, countries outside Europe.