DUBLIN (IRELAND) / BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) – The European Investment Bank (EIB) is convening a top level ministerial meeting to explore future energy and water options for Europe (Dublin, 23-24 October). While billing the conference as ‘Visions of environmental sustainability’ the EIB is continuing a controversial fossil fuel programme to both Europe and developing countries.

This shows that the European Investment Bank is pursuing dangerous double standards, according to a group of non-governmental organisations including Friends of the Earth International and CEE (Central Eastern Europe) Bankwatch Network.

While the non-governmental organisations welcome initiatives to boost financing for the natural renewable energy sector they underline that if the EIB is serious in supporting sustainable goals it must put a clear deadline on phasing out its support for fossil fuel projects.

“Support for renewables needs to be expressed in clear measurable goals. A 25% share of financing to renewables in the next three years would be a welcome first step,” said in Dublin Hannah Ellis of Friends of the Earth International.

The Dublin meeting takes place less than a week after Bolivian President Sanchez de Lozada, resigned (October 17), following a month of deadly protests over an unpopular natural gas export plans. The EIB funded a highly problematic gas pipeline running from Bolivia to Brazil in 2001.

On October 10 this year the controversial Chad Cameroon pipeline which is supported by the EIB with 144 million euro was officially inaugurated. People in Chad called for a day or mourning as the pipeline is set to increase their insecurity with local people’s livelihoods having been devastated by the project.

“The EIB loan was given despite advice from the European Parliament, against putting European Union money into such a highly controversial project. The Chad-Cameroon pipeline example puts into question the usefulness of channelling European Union aid to Africa via the EIB,” said Magda Stoczkiewicz, of Friends of the Earth International – CEE Bankwatch.

The non-governmental organisations are particularly concerned that such fossil fuel plans are hatched in an atmosphere of secrecy due to the Bank’s worrying lack of transparency, accountability and environmental and social safeguard policies.

‘It is unacceptable that such a powerful European institution as the EIB continues to evade its commitments to European Union regulations and electoral accountability’, said in Dublin Rod Harbinson of Friends of the Earth International.

While other International Financial Institutions like the World Bank have made progress in their commitment to good governance and environmental and social safeguards, the EIB remains in the dark ages.

In London on October 25-27 the Extractive Industries Review (EIR) of the World Bank will move towards concluding its report which so far finds that extractive industry projects are bad for poor countries. The August 2003 draft of the EIR report says that “….often especially for poor developing countries, the bad impacts of national extractive industries sectors can outweigh the benefits enjoyed within those countries”. The non-governmental organisations contend that the EIB must take notice of these outcomes and rapidly implement long overdue reforms.

Janneke Bruil of Friends of the Earth International stressed that: ‘It is essential that the strong recommendations of the EIR, including a stop on loans to fossil fuel projects are followed through and acted upon by all International Financial Institutions’.

Environmental campaigners from Ireland, Poland, England and The Netherlands will be confronting the EIB about its policies during the October 23-24 Dublin meeting.