No money for Belene nuclear plant

Small environmental organization prevails over big banks

In 2006, Bewegungsstiftung gave EUR 6,500 to support a campaign as a result of which urgewald prevented the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria from being financed by German banks. Urgewald was successful: the banks have abandoned their plans.

It is the kind of story the press loves: a handful of women from the North Rhine-Westphalian town of Sassenberg take on Europe’s biggest banking groups. And win. When urgewald heard about the banks’ plans for Belene, the activists first began distributing postcards, then they appeared confidently at the banks’ annual general meetings to put the shareholders in the picture, before launching an e-mail campaign, thereby rallying more and more people to the cause.

What sets urgewald apart as an organization is that whatever it undertakes, it is persistent and energetic in pursuing the cause. The bank managers seem to have realized this too. The breakthrough came shortly before a planned week of action outside of bank branches in 60 German towns and cities. HypoVereinsbank and Deutsche Bank sent urgewald a fax informing it that they were abandoning the deal.

Bewegungsstiftung also played a small part in this success in addition to the funding it provided: some of its endowment donors are good customers of the banks in question. They made it very clear to the management what they thought about their money being directed into nuclear power projects by threatening to close their accounts.

Urgewald fights on: now the women from Sassenberg are putting pressure on HypoVereinsbank’s Italian parent company, Unicredit. They are calling for it to withdraw from all nuclear-related business.


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