REGINE RICHTER – URGEWALD GERMANY
How to get Commercial Banks on their Knees
Belene, German Banks wanting to finance Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in
1. All started with a tip about German banks wanting to finance a nuclear power plant, and it became clear pretty quickly that it was about Belene in Bulgaria.
2. We got in touch with the colleagues from the Central and Eastern
European Bankwatch Network (CEE)in Bulgaria. CEE is a network of NGOs that
follow up the activities of international banks. We wanted to learn more
about Belene, its status, problems, the local resistance, the status of
financing. And as well to attain newspaper articles as sources for the
rumours about German banks financing Belene. At this occasion we learned
that whenever the Bulgarian energy minister of that time had had talks
with banks he'd announced whoever he talked to was ready to finance Belene,
while usually this was nothing more than first talks.
3. The timing was good as well: we learned about all this in early March,
while 2006 being the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, a date that many groups
in Germany used to raise awareness on the dangers of the use of nuclear
power. German banks
4. In mid April we did press work and held a press conference on Belene
and German banks together with Greenpeace. The topic was taken up relatively
well and at the evening of the press conference, the Bayerische Landesbank
5. The next step was to visit shareholder meetings of E.ON, the German
energy utility, that had announced interest as a strategic investor in
Belene - and please note that E.ON is also a shareholder of Fennovoima
in Finland - and of the banks: Commerzbank, HypoVereinsBank and Deutsche
Bank. We had banners and leaflets outside which we gave to the shareholders,
and went inside speaking on behalf of the critical shareholders and warning
about the banks financing this kind of dangerous nuclear power plant that
would never get a licence in Germany. At Commerzbank this led to the manager
clearly stating that his bank would not finance a deal like this.
6. In order to raise pressure we wanted to reach new interest groups. This led to us buying an expensive advert in an organic food magazine with extremely high distribution (several 100.000). Buying the advert helped us to get an article about Belene in the magazine, and the advert had a part were people could protest against the bank's managers. We got tons of responses and many people speaking out against the deal and wanting to do more.
7. Given that we realised the importance of Italy for the HypoVereinsBank
decision and the fact that the Unicredit group is quite important in Eastern
Europe, we planned an international day of action against the different
Unicredit branches in many countries together with CEE Bankwatch, Greenpeace,
CRBM (Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale), FoE, Global 2000 and
8. Meanwhile we had called in Germany for a week of action against the
two banks involved. Many people reacted to this and where interested in
getting the action kit: leaflet, anti-nukes sweets, poster, sticker. We
got people in 60 towns wanting to do something in front of their bank.
We did put every new town on our website. 3 days before the action week
Deutsche Bank sent a letter that they withdrew from the deal.
9. Many other banks that had been approached said as well that they didn't want to finance Belene. In May 2007 it was rumoured that BNP Paribas wanted to arrange a deal. FoE France together with Greenpeace started a big cyberaction and protests. Another international day of protests was pulled together. The BNP Paribas manager met with several NGOs. He promised to publish the list of banks they put together, which he never did. BNP Paribas said that they were only financing infrastructure around the nuclear power plant, not the nuclear power plant itself....
10. Bulgaria wants money from Euratom and announced the wish to build Belene to the Commission which was supposed to express an opinion in September but it recently looks like they won't come up before December with an opinion, since in Belene a new Russian nuclear power plant type is going to be built within the Union and the Commission wants to be thorough in its assessment.
11. Since after we "finished" with the German banks, Bulgaria is in
difficulties for getting the funding. They try to get some more money by
finding investors. Among the companies interested are RWE and E.ON from
Germany. This made us look into their investment interests - including
Finland - and lead us to campaigning against them and campaigning for people
to change their energy suppliers to "green" ones.