Amsterdam/Prague, December 4, 2002 – After almost two years of preparations, the European Investment Bank (EIB) quietly released its new Information Policy in November. The revised policy, however, is being criticised by civil society organisations as being only a slight improvement over the previous one.

“It’s amazing how vague the new policy is,“ says Magda Stoczkiewicz, EIB Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth and the CEE Bankwatch Network. “With non-committal phrases promising to release information ‘whenever possible’ and ‘as early as feasible’, how is anyone going to enforce public access? Such vague statements are even more unbelievable considering that the EU, whose members own the EIB, has signed on to the Aarhus Convention and is preparing new regulations on access to information.“

At the end of 2000, the EIB had announced that it would begin working on revising its information policy. Over the past two years, non-governmental organisations offered input and tried again and again to participate in the policy review process. In June 2001, NGOs presented detailed suggestions for change, including a proposal for improving public consultations. None of the recommendations, however, made it into the Bank’s final document.

Although the new policy contains some more ‘positive’ language, it is still biased in favour of large corporate clients over the interested public. For instance, the Bank still reserves the right to withhold information based on its so-called ‘obligation of professional secrecy’ and the ‘commercial interests’ of its public and private clients.

“Under the old rules, neither communities affected by EIB-financed projects nor concerned NGOs were able to obtain any project-related information. We are afraid that the new rules won’t change this situation,” Stoczkiewicz says, adding that Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth “have continuously asked for the Bank to disclose all projects it is currently considering for financing – a practice common in other International Financial Institutions. The new policy does not even touch that issue. After a two-year review, we were hoping for more than cosmetic changes.“

Magda Stoczkiewicz, +31 20 622 13 69 or +31 652 41 03 23