What is even more appalling is the fact that the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, is the one behind the scene steering the affairs of the Dutch Government and practically playing politics with ‘human lives.’
By Zik Gbemre
We find it rather appalling that the custodians’ of society, in this case; the Netherlands, Russia and other European states plus the oil giant-Royal Dutch Shell, are more interested in ‘their pockets,’ thirst for power politics and their economy/business rather than ‘human life’ and high moral values enshrined in the rule of law and rights of its citizenry. That is how best we can describe the pathetic situation playing out between some European nations and Russia and Shell in the middle. Like the above article has noted, it is really sad that “despite anger over downed Jetliner, Europe is shying away from sanctions against Russia.” What is even more appalling is the fact that the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, is the one behind the scene steering the affairs of the Dutch Government and practically playing politics with ‘human lives.’
As noted in the article extract above, the Anglo-Dutch Shell is one of the largest foreign investors in Russian gas fields in Siberia and is also the largest corporation in the Netherlands. This has automatically made Shell the most vital and important player in the economy of Netherlands. That means if anything affects Shell, it also affects the Dutch Government and the Netherland’s economy. Hence, the neatly close relationship between the Royal Dutch Shell and the Dutch Government. And as noted in the article extract above, Shell stock is widely held in the nation’s pension funds. That means if Shell loses money, the pensions of Dutch teachers, civil servants and many others suffer. As a result, the ties between Shell and the Dutch government are extremely close, and the company’s welfare inevitably influences policy and every other decisions of the Dutch Government.
As noted in the post, “They have direct access to everybody in the establishment,” said Sweder van Wijnbergen, who was the secretary-general of the ministry of economic affairs from 1997 to 2000. His former boss in that job, who was then the minister in charge of the economy, Hans Wijers, sits on the Shell board of directors (that is how close the relationship between Shell and the Dutch Government is). “Naturally, Shell will try to prevent any sanctions against Russia,” Mr. van Wijnbergen said. “Of course the government ultimately makes its own decisions.” And we add, such decisions of the Dutch Government are still tailored to suit the interests of the oil giant-Shell to protect their business in Russia.
That means we cannot separate Shell’s interests from that of the Dutch Government’s interests. And as such, the business interests of Shell obviously outweighs every other interests concerning The Netherlands; even if it pertains to human lives. This to us is a rather dangerous pattern of relationship that only upholds the ideals of capitalism.
But the truth is that, in a situation where innocent lives were blatantly cut short by the inter-play of a supposed cold war driven by the excessive tendencies of the Russia Government in Ukraine and parts of Europe, and the Dutch Government and Shell are more interested in saving their self-centered interests, then it greatly questions the integrity of the oil giant that keeps preaching “SAFETY FIRST” in all its operations across the world.
In a situation where about 298 lives were lost, which includes Four Shell employees and 193 citizens of The Netherlands that died in the crash of Flight 17, we are greatly disturbed at the length these big corporate companies and their partners in government would go to just to be on top of their game. Shell as a company often preaches that ‘Safety’ (which focuses on the safety of personnel against injury and loss of life during their operations), is the ultimate goal of all of its operations. And that if a job is considered to be ‘unsafe’ then such a job should be discarded and done away with, no matter how much is involved. But by playing ignorant of the situation in Russia and the loss of countless innocent lives and planes getting shot with missiles, then it means Shell’s SAFETY FIRST slogan and sermons are all a complete sham in all ramifications. When it comes to human lives and business, every corporate entity and government should know where to draw the line.
It is also funny that Shell is playing ‘double-standard’ in its operations in other countries like Nigeria when compared to what it does in The Netherlands. For instance, in its regular Integrity Due Diligence (IDD) Audit exercise in Nigeria meant for its registered Vendors/Contractors, Shell (SPDC) clearly stipulates that for every job execution, its registered Vendor/Contractor must first confirm that “none of its owners or directors, nor its employees or associates who will benefit from or take part in the execution or performance of the Agreement, is a Government Official…” That means as a Shell (SPDC) Vendor/Contractor in Nigeria, one should have no ‘relationship with the government’ that will make the latter benefit from the job being executed on behalf of the Shell. In fact, we know of one Prince Chief Okeimute Oviri, a registered Shell (SPDC) Contractor who was nearly disqualified because he made some published commentaries on Nigerian politics, not that he was even an elected government official.
The question now is, if Shell has and encourages a closely-knitted relationship with its Dutch Government in the Netherlands, how come the situation is different in Nigeria concerning its Vendors? Shell even allows a government official to sit on its board of directors. That is unheard of in other countries like Nigeria where it operates. Perhaps, this is a topic for another day.
It is also appalling and unfortunate that the Dutch Government is not condemning Russia for its devious actions in Ukraine and even against its citizenry, simply because of its economic interests in Russia through Shell. For shying away from this, it simply means the Dutch Government are aiding and abating broad day light ‘war crimes’ perpetrated by the Russia Government. As noted in the article, “In a full-page advertisements in major Dutch newspapers, the government offered condolences, but described the downing of the plane as a “disaster” rather than a missile strike. In recent days, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Netherlands has made sure to keep his lines of communication with Mr. Putin open, to “bring the bodies home,” he has said repeatedly. Behind the scenes, Dutch investors in Russia are also consulted, former insiders said. “Of course representatives of Shell are discreetly talking to the government throughout the plane ordeal, in order to minimize damage to the company,” Mr. van Wijnbergen said.
The Dutch entanglement with Russia through Shell is emblematic of ties that many European nations have with Russia. In making the case for tougher sanctions to his Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain argued that Europe should use its economic leverage against Russia. But other European countries have parried/blocked efforts to strengthen penalties on Russia. France for instance, has opposed proposed sanctions against arms sales to Russia, in part because it is building two Mistral-class helicopter ships for Russia’s military. “For the time being, a level of sanctions has not been decided that would prevent this delivery,” President François Hollande of France said in the report. “The Russians have paid,” he said, and canceling the deal would require France to reimburse Russia €1.1 billion, or $1.5 billion. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Monday said that communication lines with Russia needed to stay open.
As reiterated in the post, despite widespread anger over the plane’s downing, European nations have shied away from measures that would further isolate Russia. Dependent on Russian gas and oil, wary of confrontation on the Continent and alive to the fact of Russia’s proximity, Europe’s leaders have largely decided they will have to live with a newly assertive Russia. “Almost every European state has voluntarily handed over power to Mr. Putin, allowing him to play countries against each other,” said Marietje Schaake, an influential member of the European Parliament. “We should choose for energy independency, for principles, human rights and rule of law. But that is not what (they) are doing now.”
At a recent meeting, the foreign ministers of the European Union agreed to draw up a new, broader list of targets for sanctions, including Russian individuals and entities, said Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign affairs Chief. But no new additional measures were imposed, reflecting fears among some Europeans that tougher sanctions would invite reprisals by Russia against countries dependent on its energy supplies, harming the Continent’s economic growth. It was a mirror image of the debate that unfolded in bland diplomatic language in Brussels, where foreign ministers of the European Union’s 28 member states were under pressure to display resolve and common purpose after the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine. In the end, there was plenty of tough talk, yet no real punishment for Russia despite calls from Australia, Britain and the United States, who have all accused Russia of supplying the missile that brought down Flight 17, to take a tougher line.
“Nowhere is the European conundrum clearer than in the Netherlands, a tiny nation of 16 million but one of the wealthiest in the European Union. For more than a decade, the Dutch have been forging closer ties with Russia, emphasizing a growing trade and economic partnership while pointedly ignoring President Vladimir V. Putin’s regional ambitions,” said the post.
But the question is, should government of nations and big corporate companies like Shell do whatever pleases them in securing their economic interests to the detriment of its various citizenry? Absolutely not! As emphasized in the article, “We have to draw a line somewhere,” said Meindert van der Kaaij, a silver-haired journalist, lamenting over those who died on Flight 17. “We must say something.”
It is also imperative to note that if what is going in Europe, Russia and Ukraine (plus the oil giants in the middle), is happening in Africa or Asia, we are very sure all the major powers of the West will be crying foul and making so much noise. In fact, we are sure they will not even hesitate a moment to impose sanctions and carry out complete aerial raids/invasion (like the ones done by NATO), on any African country that is doing what Russia is doing in Ukraine and Europe.
Zik Gbemre, JP
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