In the letter below our Director, Xavier Sol, outlines the main highlights of our work in 2015 and explains the challenges awaiting us in 2016.
“Scrutinising European public investment banks and pushing for their reform is more important than ever. Indeed, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) together lent and invested over EUR 105 billion in 2015. For instance, the role and the impact of the EIB is exponentially increasing via its key role in implementing the European Fund for Strategic Investments as part of the Investment Plan for Europe. By 2018 the bank is expected to leverage an additional €315 billion of investments in the EU.
Nevertheless, the growing macroeconomic role of these public banks is not matched by an adequate improvement of their transparency, accountability and sustainability. Based on our experience in monitoring the EIB, we identified three main threats which need to be tackled urgently: a democratic deficit associated to a lack of transparency and accountability, the use of questionable and risky financial instruments and a large amount of unsustainable projects financed.
Being the only coalition fully dedicated to scrutinising public banks at European level, Counter Balance holds a unique position in the Brussels NGO landscape. We will keep on advocating for more open, transparent and sustainable financial institutions operating in the best interest of EU citizens. We will do this by building a broader civil society momentum around those reforms, by engaging with decision makers and by conveying our key messages in EU media to open a broader public debate on the merits and mission of public finance.
2016 will be crucial to ensure that public funds are spent transparently and responsibly on sustainable projects which in a decade’s time can still prove to be meaningful. In the aftermath of the Paris climate agreement, we will particularly focus on ensuring that EIB and EBRD investments favour an ecological and social transition to a more sustainable economic system instead of financing fossil fuel and high-carbon projects. This will mean advancing policy proposals as well as monitoring projects on the ground together with local groups and communities in order to ensure that projects which positively affect the lives of the most vulnerable are being prioritised.
A public investment bank can be a powerful tool to push for positive change and we remain fully dedicated to making public interest central in the lending of our European investment banks.
Xavier Sol, Counter Balance Director”