Latin America-EU summit:European corporations under fire


A number of European corporations will come under fire this week during an alternative Europe-Latin America gathering to be held in parallel to the European Union (EU) - Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Summit hosted by Austria, the country currently holding the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

At the May 12 EU-LAC Summit in Vienna, heads of state will discuss plans to further trade and investment agreements between the two trading blocs. They are under pressure from corporate suits meeting in a ‘business summit’ on May 11-13 to voice business’ urgent requests with regards to bi-lateral trade relations and direct investment.’

Conversely, participants in the alternative summit want EU and LAC leaders to stop promoting the free trade agenda, and organized a May 10-11 ‘People’s Tribunal on Human Rights violations’ perpetrated by European corporations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

One group of particpants Friends of the Earth affiliates from Europe and Latin America, have singled out four such corportaions for what they allege is their particularly appalling record. They include the Dutch Vion Food Group, one of the largest vendors of pork products and a market leader in the beef secto. Its pig feed mainly comes from soy from Brazilian plantations which have caused large scale deforestation of the Amazon, violation of human rights, eviction of local farmers and pollution from pesticides. French water and energy giant Suez provided water services in the Maldonado department in Uruguay for the past eight years via its Spanish subsidiary Aguas de Barcelona. In that time, water prices have risen by up to 700%. Andritz AG from Austria is world leader for wood processing machinery. The company is involved in controversial pulp and paper projects in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, resulting in destruction of rainforest, severe pollution and conflicts with the local population. Andrtiz delivered the machinery to a paper mill in Uruguay which has recently led to large scale protests and to an international conflict between the governments of Uruguay and Argentina. These countries have now taken this case to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. Finally, electricity group Unión Fenosa from Spain has branches in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. The company is accused of illegal actions such as cutting off people from the electricity grid without prior notification, violations of international labour agreements, intimidation of local leaders and other human rights violations.