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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
29 april 2006

Activists welcome withdrawal ING from paper mill project

Mid April, ING announced in a letter to Friends of the Earth International, the Argentinean Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA) and BankTrack, a Dutch-based international network striving for sustainable financing, that its participation in the 1.8 billion dollar paper mill project of Finnish company Metsa-Botnia and Ence (Spain) in Uruguay 'is no longer under consideration'. ING Group, a signatory of the Equator Principles, an industry-led approach to ensure that banks only invest in socially responsible and environmentally sound projects, was to provide significant finance for the part of Botnia in the project. The project is controversial, as the bleaching processes of the two planned paper pulp factories are expected to cause considerable environmental damage. The factories, to be built in Uruguay along a river that separates the country from Argentina, have also led to heated debates between the two Latin American countries. Argentina accuses Uruguay of violating a treaty between the two countries that governs the use of the Uruguay River, and considers to file a complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Uruguay wants to do the same, because Argentinean activists have been blocking two bridges over the Uruguay River, thus damaging the tourism industry. Meanwhile, the World Bank has postponed funding, after independent Canadian environmental experts pointed at serious omissions in previous environmental and social assessments. Daniel Taillant, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA) called the decision of ING "yet another blow in the face of Botnia". In a letter to ING Group to express his thanks for the withdrawal from the project, he writes: "Difficult decisions such as this one stand out and are remembered in time, as they reach above the status quo, make a statement, set a standard, and many times reach beyond our own full understanding of the true implications, risks and issues that are at stake. Nevertheless, when a decision like this one is made based on what is right and just, above and beyond what is convenient, or economically profitable, that decision can never be a wrong one." CEDHA is continuing its fight, and has filed a complaint against Botnia in Helsinki for not complying with the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). P+ Webtip: CEDHA