One week before the European Investment Bank’s board of directors is expected to approve the bank’s new transparency policy, 11 civil society groups* monitoring the EIB warn that, as it stands, the draft policy amounts to a weakening of the already dismal transparency standards of the EU’s house bank.

In a letter sent today to the directors of the EIB who will take the final decision during their meeting on February 3, the NGOs criticise in particular that:

  • The EIB will not be responsible to disclose to the public any documents related to internal investigations, reports and audits, even if they concern matters of public interest and even once investigations are closed. This is hardly in line with EU legislation and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice.
  • The policy therefore disregards provisions in the Aarhus convention [1] that calls on EU institutions to make available a wide range of such information. Indeed, at the moment, the EIB only discloses a limited set of environmental documents for the projects it supports.
  • The EIB will not be required to disclose the list of final beneficiaries of its loans going through financial intermediaries – mostly commercial banks who on-lend EIB loans. Those loans will remain a black box for public scrutiny.

Xavier Sol, director of Counter Balance, comments:

“The fact that the EIB is set to weaken its transparency standards precisely at the time when it will play a major role in managing the new European investment plan worth 315 billion euros is outrageous. Approving the transparency policy in its current form would mean that the European public would have very limited control over the institution which is charged with such a crucial role in alleviating the pains of the economic crisis. This is no time for the bank to hide behind a noncommittal policy, instead, it should be opening up in front of European citizens.”

Anna Roggenbuck, EIB campaign coordinator at Bankwatch, adds:

“Already now the bank is lagging behind the transparency of other international lenders. [2] If this draft policy is approved, the EIB would become one of the most opaque financial institutions in the world. This is ironic at best coming from the house bank of the European Union which preaches transparency and accountability to the world.”

Notes for the editors:

* List of groups signing the letter: Counter Balance, CEE Bankwatch Network, BothENDS, WWF, EuroDad, Centre for Law and Democracy, Ibis, Sherpa, Publish What You Fund, ANND, Transparency International, Action Aid, Article 19.

[1] The list of information provided by the EU regulation 1367/2006 which outlines how the Aarhus Convention should be applied by EU institutions includes “data or summaries of data derived from the monitoring of activities affecting, or likely to affect, the environment” as well as “authorisations with a significant impact on the environment, and environmental agreements” and “environmental impact studies and risk assessments concerning environmental elements”. In addition, the Aarhus convention mentions that each Party shall provide “sufficient information to the public about the type and scope of environmental information held by the relevant public authorities”.

[2] Read about the Aid Transparency Index and the EIB’s disappointing ranking: