Madrid, 6 September 2012 – Transparency specialists Access Info Europe today denounced the tight secrecy surrounding the major casino construction project, Eurovegas, following today’s media reports that it will be built in Alcorcón, on the outskirts of Madrid.
Expressing concern at reports that the company behind the project, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has made it conditional on a “confidentiality clause”, Access Info Europe is calling on the Madrid regional government to come clean with the information it holds about the real cost of this project to the tax payer and the potentially negative environmental and social impacts.
“Spain’s stricken economy has been brought to its knees by fantastical construction projects, often involving corruption facilitated by a lack of transparency,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe. “The European tax payer is now bailing out banks which financed empty airports, failing theme parks, and illegal constructed hotels now being pulled down. It is time for the secrecy that surrounds these deals to stop before good money is thrown after bad.”
In the climate of secrecy surrounding Eurovegas, rumours have been circulating in the media that bank loans guaranteed by the European Union will finance this project. According to information published by the news agency Europa Press on 26 June 2012, the director of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Michael Leven, stated that 66% of the project financing will be in the form of bank loans. Access Info Europe is calling on Spain’s Ministry of Economy to confirm or deny these reports.
Earlier requests for information filed across the request website tuderechoasaber.es (“Your right to know”) have gone unanswered. In April 2012, the civic platform “Eurovegas No”, of which Access Info Europe is a member, filed a series of requests with local, regional and national authorities asking for the studies and impact assessments which should be carried out before giving Eurovegas the go ahead. To date none of these has been answered in spite of the high level of public debate around this project and the concerns about its cost, and its potential negative environmental and social impact.
Another major concern is the potential violation of EU environment rules given that the lands on which Eurovegas will be built are currently classified as a rural zone. The Madrid authorities have not yet published any environmental assessments which, under EU directives on environmental protection, must be carried out before construction can proceed.
Spanish Culture of Secrecy under Scrutiny
The culture of secrecy in Spain is currently under scrutiny by international human rights bodies. In April 2012 and again in June 2012, the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) severely criticised the draft access to information law, which the Spanish government is hoping will redeem its negative reputation as the only large EU country without an access to information law (Luxembourg and Malta are the only other countries not to have such laws).
The draft transparency law passed to the Spanish Parliament in July for consideration this autumn has not made all the changes recommended by the OSCE. In particular, requestors are still not allowed to ask for “summaries, and internal reports and communications” – all information which it is essential to ensure public oversight of projects such as Eurovegas. “The lack of information about public finances, particularly in the construction sector, has contributed to the Spanish crisis: if the current government is serious about changing this pattern it needs to start by guaranteeing transparency in law and in practice,” concluded Darbishire.
The Eurovegas No Platform was founded in February 2012 to oppose the establishment of the Eurovegas casino complex in Madrid, Cataluña, or any other part of Spain. It is formed of a range of organisations and individuals, for a full list (in Spanish) see: http://eurovegasno.blogspot.com.es/p/quienes-somos.html
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / tel: + 34 667 685 319
Alicia Costas, Coordinator
e-mail: email@example.com / tel: +34 655 970 814