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european groups: challenging corporate power and finance

In 2009 Friends of the Earth Europe exposed and challenged some of the worst impacts of the EU’s economic policies, practices and companies, both within and outside Europe.

Brussels against WB and its lending to ESKOM-1In February, Friends of the Earth Europe published "Would You Bank on Them?" an analysis of the track records of members of the EU’s High Level Group of financial ‘wise men’ responsible for helping to frame Europe’s response to the meltdown in the financial sector. As the group met, activists dressed as sheriffs with ‘unwanted’ posters gathered outside the European Commission, to protest against advice on handling the financial crisis being given by the very bankers who caused it.


In June, four European-wide civil society networks - the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU), the European Attac network, the Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B), and the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) (three of which Friends of the Earth is a member of) - ran a 'Pin down your candidate' campaign in advance of European Parliament elections. More than 350 candidates, 70 of whom were elected, pledged to work for a European Union that puts public interests before private profits. Citizens from all 27 EU member states asked candidates to commit to work for lobbying transparency, big business accountability, a just EU trade policy, and financial market regulation.


Friends of the Earth France also organized a bankers’ strip-tease in front of the Paris headquarters of French bank BNP Paribas, to reveal what’s hidden under bankers’ clothes. Among the bank’s secrets were nuclear power plants in earthquake zones, and controversial and polluting megaprojects... not really sexy!


September saw the publication of "Overconsumption: our use of the world's resources" a report questioning Europe’s consumption of increasing quantities of the world’s natural resources. This followed on from a report published earlier in the year, in which Friends of the Earth Europe examined possible methods of measuring Europe’s resource use.


In November, some of the ‘worst’ French companies were awarded Friends of the Earth France’s Prix Pinocchio du développement durable (Pinocchio Prize for sustainable development) in a public ceremony. Among the many nominees three companies came out on top: French investment and industrial holding group Bolloré in the human rights category, oil giant Total in the environment category, and energy company EDF in the greenwashing category.


In December, Friends of the Earth Europe and Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) co-published a report "Calling the EU’s bluff" which questions who the real champions of biodiversity and traditional knowledge are in the negotiations to establish the proposed EU-Central America and EU-Community of Andean Nations Association Agreements. Although the EU often promotes itself as an environmental champion, this report shows that the EU prioritizes trade concerns even at the expense of our climate and biodiversity. 


As part of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), Friends of the Earth Europe is also campaigning for reform of European law, so that victims of corporate abuse can seek justice in European courts, and European parent companies can be held liable for the behavior of their subsidiaries around the world.

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