On 8th November the EIB has published the new EIB Anti-Fraud Policy on its website, together with the revised EIB Investigation Procedures.

Counter Balance has been critical to the process of this revision. Despite the importance of the subject and the international attention for it, the EIB made it clear from the beginning of the process that this revision would only be a purely technical one. “The new version of the Policy includes no major changes to the principles and reiterates the zero tolerance approach that EIB will adopt” states the bank’s website.

It is unfortunate that at a time when several policy processes are taking place and commitments are being made by EU member states both at EU and international level under the framework of the G8 and G20, the revision of the EIB anti-fraud policy happened outside of this political reality.

We signaled this situation in April 2013 in a letter to the EIB president Werner Hoyer and the Commissioner Olli Rehn in charge of economic and financial affairs. This resulted in a temporary postponing of the revision but did not influence the content of the policy and the overall timing of its revision.

In addition, the main concerns we raised during a workshop organised by the bank in March are not reflected in the approved policy. Several loopholes remain unsolved:

  • The EIB has still not formally committed that it will stop disbursing loans when investigations are taking place into the projects it finances.
  • Neither has the bank addressed the specific issue of lending through financial intermediaries such as private equity funds or commercial banks, even when this type of lending has proved to be particularly vulnerable to corruption due to its opaque structure.

By avoiding an open consultation process and carrying on a technical revision, it seems that the EIB is putting the credibility of its commitments against corruption and money laundering at stake. A higher level of seriousness was expected from the EU bank. With the issue of tax evasion high on the political agenda and with new regulation on the way, EIB’s new policy risks being soon outdated. Nevertheless, we see a window of opportunity for the bank in 2014 to take into account political developments at EU level and prove its ambition on the matter by engaging in a revision of its measures against tax evasion, the so-called “non-cooperative jurisdictions policy”.