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Billionaires, Palestine, Fossil Fuel giants, and more - The ENCO newsletter

Every month, our newsletter features the latest publications and other activities of the ENCO network and of the civil society and media organisations that participate in its activities.

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Latest research from around the network

Taken, not earned. How monopolists drive the world’s power and wealth divide. The world’s wealthiest billionaires have a common secret hiding in plain sight: they are monopolists. Much of their wealth and income was taken, not earned. A new report by the Balanced Economy Project, SOMO, Global Justice Now and LobbyControl focuses on how a handful of individuals and their companies have built positions of market and strategic dominance where they’ve become too big to fail, too big to trust, and ‘too big to care’. They have accumulated so much monopoly power that they make decisions that deeply affect the lives of all of us.

United Nations Database of Companies Complicit with Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This report by Felipe Daza (Observatory of business and human rights in the Mediterranean, ODHE) aims to analyse the current status of the United Nations database of the 112 companies with economic activities in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). It analyses the database instrument with the aim of advancing in its development, updating and implementation at international and national level.

This is what a Total phase our looks like. This new report by Observatoire des multinationales with 350.org outlines how to reclaim control over the fossil fuel industry. Using TotalEnergies as a case study, the report calls on policymakers to dare to imagine a shut down of the fossil fuel industry, and puts forward concrete pathways to make it happen.

The Raw Materials Rush. How the European Union is using trade agreements to secure supply of critical raw materials for its green transition. While the EU is committed to net-zero emissions, the prevailing approach hinges on maintaining capitalist expansion, raising questions about the viability of a true green transition. The endeavor faces complexities, notably in the context of global competition and the imperative to secure essential raw materials, emphasizing extractive production models. New report by the Transnational Institute available in English.

Italy-Africa Summit. ReCommon sharply criticises the Mattei Plan launched by the Italian government at the recent Italy-Africa summit, calling it an assist for fossil multinationals, starting with the oil giant ENI.

Coal baron. EPH, the Czech Republic’s largest company, is far from being the European leader in decarbonisation it likes to portray itself. According to a recent investigation by Deník Referendum, co-published by VoxEurope, the company, owned by Czech coal baron Daniel Křetínský, uses ’creative’ accounting of its greenhouse gas emissions to sweeten the picture of its real impact on the climate.

AI-Act: new documents show close relations between AI startup Aleph Alpha and the German government. Aleph Alpha has had many high-level lobby meetings with German politicians. Further unpublished lobby documents illustrate how heavily Aleph Alpha lobbied on the AI Act to influence the german government’s position in the Council. This blog post by LobbyControl (in German) explains why it matters.

The complicity of the Spanish financial sector in the occupation of Palestine. The case of solar energy and Greenwashing. The report by ODHE highlights part of the Spanish financial network that makes possible the planning, construction and implementation of solar energy projects in the Occupied Territory of Palestine and other disputed territories such as the Naqab (in Arabic) or Nèguev (in Hebrew) desert. To this end, research has been carried out into the links between large Spanish banks, insurance companies and financial funds and the financing of renewable energy companies and projects, the main sources of financing for Israeli solar fields, as well as the companies that operate them and/or have participated as suppliers. The report can be found here and a summary here.

SACE is out of Arctic LNG-2. On 31st of January 2024, the guarantee on loans issued by Italian Export credit agency SACE in favour of top Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo for Arctic LNG-2 has been terminated. Arctic LNG-2 is natural gas liquefaction mega-project of the Russian company Novatek under construction in the Gydan Peninsula. Read ReCommon’s analysis.

The hidden cost, the other side of green transition. A new documentary film by ODG and Quepo shows the impacts that the European “green” transition is having in countries such as Chile and Argentina, exporters of lithium, copper and green hydrogen, needed for decarbonization technologies and most importantly, for one of the central elements of the transition: electromobility. The film goes with ODG’s self-published book “The mine, the factory and the store“,

COP28 facilitates fossil fuel frenzy. Despite the hailed deal to “transition away from fossil fuels”, the 2023 UN climate summit’s text has the oily fingerprints of the fossil fuel lobby all over it. The reality is COP28 is more likely to facilitate a fossil fuel frenzy by cementing false solutions in the text: exactly what the army of lobbyists ordered. This wrap-up blog post by Corporate Europe Observatory takes a look at what happened during the COP.

From the ENCO Archives: Know your Billionaires!

Back in January 2020, at the occasion of the Davos forum, ENCO published a collaborative report by civil society organisations and journalists shedding light on Europe’s richest, how they built their wealth and how they use it... A story of rising inequality and undermined democracy.

While much more attention has been dedicated to the super-rich of the United States, China or even Russia, Europe too has a growing number of billionaires. The report ’Know your Billionaires. A Portrait of Europe through its Richest’ takes a close look at some of key figures from across the continent. They are linked to some of Europe’s largest corporations, such as BMW, Ferrero, LVMH, ACS or Ineos. Most of them come from the Western part of the continent, although there is a growing number of Eastern European billionaires, who are now increasingly investing in countries such as France or Germany.

The story of how they made their wealth is often also the story of many of the ills of our economic and social systems, which have generated the very problems the Davos Forum claims to address. A story of tax avoidance, financialisation and dishing out of dividends, heavy reliance on public subsidies and tendering, secretive corporate structures, environmental damage or substandard wages and working conditions.

While much has been said about the political role and influence of billionaires in the United States, starting with current President Donald Trump, Europe’s super-rich also wield considerable, and increasing, political influence. They cultivate close connections with political leaders and officials, they spend massive amounts of money in lobbying, they fund political parties (mostly of a conservative or far-right obedience), they own and influence mainstream media... … and sometimes they decide to get into politics themselves, like former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

The report with 10 profiles of billionaires is available on the ENCO website : https://corpwatchers.eu/en/investigations/know-your-billionaires/