The European Investment Bank (EIB) – the financial arm of the EU – has approved a new Transparency Policy that will allow the bank to keep hiding information on projects it finances despite their potential impacts on people and the environment.
The new policy, it is claimed, “further deteriorates” transparency conditions at the EIB and does not adhere to transparency standards of similar international financial institutions.
The EIB Directors – representing the 27 shareholders of the bank – adopted the policy during their monthly Board Meeting. Together with the management of the EIB, they decided to ignore the demands from 53 civil society organisations formulated during the public consultation process.
Campaigners says “they also openly disregarded the suggestions of the European Ombudsman presented to the EIB in the course of an investigation on how the bank should improve disclosure and dissemination of environmental information.”
The CEE Bankwatch Network said, “This decision also demonstrates the little attention paid to the European Parliament’s position. In two reports adopted in July 2021, parliamentarians expressed concerns about the proposal for a new EIB transparency policy that “falls short of meeting the demands made by Parliament and civil society organisations to step up its transparency policy in line with the best practices and standards employed by other financial institutions”. Central to both reports was the concern regarding the lack of transparency on the use of financial intermediaries like commercial banks and investment funds, and the need to end secrecy around the meetings of EIB governing bodies.
In particular, the new policy does not require the EIB to proactively – and before it makes final decisions – publish information on the project if finances, including:
- Which projects the EIB choses to finance and how it makes these decisions;
- Which projects are funded through intermediaries; and,
- What are the project’s impacts and how projects are monitored as they are being implemented.
Anna Roggenbuck, Policy Officer at CEE Bankwatch Network said: “The EIB claims of supporting human rights or being a climate leader are not trustworthy with the current level of secrecy in the bank. The citizens remain with extremely limited access to relevant social, human rights and environmental information on projects which impact them. This prevents their participation in decision-making and effective dialogue with the bank. It is incomprehensible that the EU’s bank resists adhering to internationally recognised transparency standards of similar banks and it denies providing information timely. Moreover, it added new exceptions to disclosure to already existing ones which it tends to overuse.”
Xavier Sol, Director at Counter Balance said: “Citizens deserve more than a bank openly deciding to turn its back on transparency. Public scrutiny is necessary for European institutions to be trusted, and today’s decision is both a disgrace and a missed opportunity. At a time when public finance is standing at the heart of recovery efforts at European level, decisions that will impact the future of our societies should not take place behind closed doors.”
ClientEarth Lawyer Sebastian Bechtel said: “Despite great promises to lead the fight against climate change, the EIB Directors’ decision actively blocks people from verifying whether public money is truly used for this purpose. This is a shame. At a time where everyone is trying to claim green credentials, we need to be able to access evidence that the EIB is not greenwashing its activities but really putting its money where its mouth is.”