NGOs from across Europe rallied today in front of the Council of the EU in Brussels with a strong demand to the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s ‘bank’: Stop providing loans to tax haven-based multinationals.

The Counter Balance coalition together with Eurodad, Tax Justice Network, Friends of the Earth and other civil society representatives intend the action to draw attention to its forthcoming report on tax havens, which will analyse the EIB’s role in funding global tax avoiders in more details.

Desislava Stoyanova, Counter Balance Coordinator, said: “In the last five years, the EIB has loaned EUR 5.66 billion to banks such as Barclays Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, ING, Société Générale and BNP Paribas, the top tax haven users from the UK, France and the Netherlands. At the same time EUR 210 million has gone from the EIB to African funds that use tax havens in their strategies, and some of the major infrastructure projects financed by the EIB in the name of development also happen to have close links with tax havens.

“The EIB urgently needs to become a lot more choosy about which companies it provides finance to, especially when it is lending in the name of the EU’s development agenda.”

The fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance, as facilitated by tax havens, has been put at the forefront of the political agenda in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis. European leaders have increased the public pressure on tax havens and offshore financial centres. French Prime minister François Fillon has said that tax havens are “black holes that should no longer exist”. Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg has said “tax parasites” must be seriously dealt with.

Anne-Sophie Simpere, of Counter Balance member les amis de la terre, said: “Tax havens are a highly dubious way of ensuring sustainable profits for corporations, while EIB lending in southern countries is supposed to be about ensuring sustainable development. The previous European Parliament has issued strong statements that call on Europe to make the elimination of tax havens, which are so detrimental to the developing world, a priority. The EIB, the EU’s house bank whose role in developing countries is to be increased in the coming years, should therefore comply with these commitments and implement clear regulations in order to prevent tax evasion and to foster good governance in tax matters.”