Vienna, November 7, 2002 – While the European Investment Bank (EIB) welcomed guests and clients to its Forum 2002 “Countdown to enlargement – a practical perspective”, environmental NGOs from Austria, the Netherlands and EU candidate countries conveyed their own message: “The EIB finances, the environment pays the price!”
Global 2000, CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth International welcomed the participants of the Forum with an alternative ‘Environmental Investment Bank’ in front of the Hotel Intercontinental. Large posters depicted facts and fictions about the EIB – the Bank’s own statements were placed side-by-side with facts on EIB-financed projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The NGOs are calling on the EIB to reform its weak environmental and social standards and performance in those areas, as well as for increased transparency and proper supervision.
The EIB has become the main financial player in extending the Trans European Network into CEE (Central and Eastern Europe), with devastating consequences for the environment. Dr. Heinz Hoegelsberger from GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria) said, “Because EU enlargement will increase traffic and transport, we are calling for more investment in railway infrastructure. The motorways that the EIB plans to finance will damage the environment as well as people’s quality of life – both in the candidate countries and in adjacent Austria.”
An EIB financed motorway in Poland provides a bad precedent. Robert Cyglicki from Polish Green Net (CEE Bankwatch Poland) said: “The EIB is financing the A4 motorway in Poland, a project which threatens valuable nature areas and has already destroyed the cultural, historical and natural heritage of Mt. Saint Anna. We would expect the bank of the European Union to pay more attention to biodiversity protection and public participation”.
Peter Mihok from the Center for Environmental Public Advocacy (CEE Bankwatch Slovakia) adds, “When the EIB financed a bridge in Bratislava, it made public consultations a condition of the loan, but this only happened after almost a year of prodding and huge protests by the local communities. Even then, the quality of the public process is questionable and it seems like little more than a ‘tick the box’ exercise to appease the public.”
This lack of public outreach is one reflected in the Forum itself, the environmental groups say. The Bank’s website promotes the Forum as an opportunity to discuss “subjects of immediate interest to the Bank’s clients.” Magda Stoczkiewicz, EIB campaign leader for CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth International, said, “This is typical for the EIB. The EIB is a public institution using taxpayer money, but its clients – mostly private Western companies – are more important than the needs of citizens of the countries served. And so they hold a Forum in Vienna instead of Prague or Budapest”.
Janneke Bruil from Friends of the Earth International added: “Many years of dialogue with the EIB have so far resulted in only limited improvement because resistance to change at the Bank is so enormous. Maybe the EIB needs to face more actions like the one today to understand that the good old days of carte blanche are over”.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT
Heinz Hoegelsberger, GLOBAL 2000: +43 1 812 57 30
Magda Stoczkiewicz, CEE Bankwatch Network / Friends of the Earth International: +31 652 410 323
Robert Cyglicki, Polish Green Net: +48 609 686 793
Janneke Bruil, Friends of the Earth International: +31 6 52 118 998
The EIB reform campaign is coordinated by Friends of the Earth International and CEE Bankwatch Network and supported by more than 30 groups all over Europe