ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) is seeking a new agreement with the Liberian government.
A lot of questions have been extensively raised about the shortcomings of this agreement – especially about the de facto monopoly AML will get over the railway between Yekepa and Buchanan and over the port of Buchanan.
In December last year, the House of Representatives heavily amended the agreement, “to allow for transparent non-discriminatory access to Liberian infrastructure assets, with appropriate oversight by the Government, consistent with other successful multi-user models and best international practice,” thus paving the way for a diverse economic development of Liberia.
The Liberian Senate is now expected to confirm the House’s amendments.
In the meantime, the European Union High Representative Josep Borrell was questioned about the agreement.
Borrell serves as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy since 1 December 2019 and served as President of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2007 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in the Government of Spain from 2018 to 2019.
He is concerned because ArcelorMittal is a European company, with its headquarters in Luxembourg (an EU member state), and as such it has to comply with EU regulations even when it conducts its business outside EU’s borders.
Based on this, Ramona Strugariu, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Renew Europe, notified High Representative Borell about the agreement, asking him if he is aware of the controversies surrounding the agreement, if he raised with the Liberian authorities the concerning issues, and if the new MDA is compatible with the EU’s objectives of promoting good governance and sustainable development in Liberia.
Strugariu wrote: “In September 2021, the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal reached an agreement to amend the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), paving the way for a considerable expansion of the company’s operations in the country and extending the iron ore mining concession for 25 years. Shrouded in secrecy, also for the Liberian lawmakers who will now have to approve it, the amended agreement generated, like the previous MDAs, controversies over the benefits for the Liberian economy, the involvement of local populations, the possibility of corruption and the potential creation of a rail monopoly.
1. Is the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) aware of these controversies and have these issues been raised with the Liberian authorities?
2. Is the new MDA compatible with the EU’s objectives of promoting good governance and sustainable development in Liberia?
3. In the context of reports of enthusiastic endorsement, can the VP/HR clarify the EU’s position regarding foreign investments like this in Liberia?”
“The involvement of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and other high EU officials is quite significant. First of all, it signals that the Liberian legislators are not alone in their quest for transparency, fairness and sustainable development. Therefore, they shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by AML, and they shouldn’t give in to AML’s propaganda.
“This is especially true for the Liberian Senators, since now it’s their turn to decide on the agreement. Liberian Senators, you are not alone! So, please, follow the example of the House and do the right thing! Liberians deserve nothing less!”