November 23, 2001 – Today environmental and development groups meet in London with representatives of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in order to discuss environment and development issues related to the EIB operations. This is the latest in a series of NGO-EIB consultations held since 1995.
NGOs have been highly critical of the EIB’s failure to embrace serious reforms, starting with an open information policy. “I have been working on EIB issues for the last 5 years” – stated Magda Stoczkiewicz, CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth International campaigner – “in the last two years the Bank finally accepted that a change in the Institution is needed, however it is more like painting the facade of a house while the rooms inside are still dirty and the roof is leaking. What we see is more PR strategies than a real change”.
The EIB is owned by the 15 EU Member States with the UK, Germany, Italy and France contributing biggest portion of the Bank’s capital. It is an institution of great importance with its operations covering more than 150 countries worldwide, having a portfolio size bigger than the World Bank and supporting controversial projects such as the Chad-Cameroon pipeline in Africa or Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea.
Founded in 1958 the EIB is the major financing institution of the European Union and should work within the remit of the EU Treaties. “The EUB should be a leader in complying with the principles of representation, participation, public accountability and sustainable development so eloquently set out in various EU treaties, directives and other official documents,” said Stoczkiewicz. “Yet the EIB remains one of the most untransparent international financial institutions.”
During the last year NGOs have released a series of reports and held Roundtables about the EIB with decision makers and parliamentarians around Europe. According to those roundtables and reports the main areas of change should be:
- Full public access to all relevant project information in a timely way.
- Establishment of clear environmental standards to underpin the EIB’s role in promoting the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.
- Acceptance by the EIB that it does have a development mandate, and agreement on how its activities outside the EU should be carried out in a transparent way;
- Greater supervision of the EIB, including the roles of the European Parliament, European Court of Auditors, and the European Ombudsman, in order to promote greater public accountability.
“For more than a year the EIB has been reviewing its information policy, however until now they did not released any new draft policy which we could comment on” – said Jaroslava Colajacomo from the Italian NGO Campagna per la riforma della Banca mondiale. “The EIB is not willing to make public any information on projects it supports if their promoters, usually private companies, oppose it. Such assumption in favour of non-disclosure of EIB documents is unacceptable and breaches major international recognised standards on access to information. European citizens have a right to know how their money is going to be spent”.
Full text of the statement can be downloaded from the www.bankwatch.org
Meeting venue: ETC Venues, 36 Park Street, London