Campaigners across Europe are urging the European Commission and their finance ministers to halt a dangerous slide towards secrecy of the giant European Investment Bank (EIB), of which the EU member states are owners. The already secretive bank is proposing to make it far harder for European citizens to find out what it is up to, despite the fact it is a ‘public’ bank owned by EU governments.

Now campaigners including Counter Balance, Eurodad and Christian Aid have written to EIB directors, who represent the EU member states and the Commission on the board of the bank, urging them to speak out against the plans at their next meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, 16 September.

“The Bank’s planned lurch towards secrecy is extraordinary,” said Christian Aid Senior Economic Justice Adviser Joseph Stead. “At a time when the rest of the world has recognised that companies behave better when the public can find out what they’re doing, the Bank is proposing to conceal more than ever.” Eurodad Policy and Advocacy Manager Maria Jose Romero said: “Despite numerous calls from the European Parliament for the EIB to act with more transparency, it is becoming increasingly secretive. This is a bank that is effectively owned by the people of Europe and, as such, it should be open and accountable.” Counter Balance Director Xavier Sol added: “We urge all the directors to use next week’s Bank Board meeting to demand the bank to abandon plans to limit transparency and instead pursue openness and honesty about its affairs. We hope the public interest will prevail over corporate interests.”

The European Investment Bank lent €71.7 billion to projects within and outside Europe last year; around 10% of its funding goes to more than 150 countries outside the European Union, including in Eastern Europe the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Bank-financed schemes include large infrastructure projects like motorways, pipelines and power stations as well as loans to small and medium-sized enterprises through financial intermediaries. According to the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, the Bank is already lagging behind other multilateral organisations in terms of transparency. The Index rated it as ‘poor’ – one rung above the worst rating of ‘very poor’, as part of an assessment and ranking of 60 donor organisations.

This summer, the bank launched a public consultation on proposals to change its ‘transparency’ policy in ways which would allow it to hide even more information than at present. The Bank has invited comments on its proposals by 26 September 2014.