Our new report proposes a number of crucial reforms to guarantee democratic oversight, transparency and quality of the lending of the EU’s financial arm in the pivotal year of 2015.
On paper the EIB has one of the best developed Complaint Mechanisms guaranteeing downward accountability to all citizens affected by the EIB’s operations inside and outside Europe. In case the Complaint Mechanism Office (CMO) doesn’t provide satisfactory results, complainants even have the possibility to turn to the European Ombudsman.
However in practice the CMO is less efficient as a previous Counter Balance report showed: its recommendations are not binding, its independence is jeopardized, it holds a marginalised position within the EIB and it lacks resources. We also showed that there was significant room for the European Ombudsman to move towards a more proactive interpretation of its mandate.
2015 provides several opportunities to drastically reform the existing accountability framework of the EIB.
First of all, the EIB will revise the rules and procedures of it Complaints Mechanism Office. Also the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Ombudsman and the EIB will be under review. This document outlines the competences of the Ombudsman’s scrutiny over EIB operations.
Secondly, the growing macroeconomic role of the EIB – for instance through its role in the newly created European Fund for Strategic Investments under the Juncker investment plan – has only increased the necessity to democratise the 'EU Bank' and make it a more accountable institution e.g. by granting more power to the European Parliament to scrutinise its activities and outline its priorities.
Unlike other international financial institutions such as the World Bank Group, the EIB is explicitly bound by the EU legal framework and its set of principles and laws which define concepts such as maladministration. Despite its hybrid nature of being both a bank and an EU institution, there are strong legal arguments to make the EIB a much more accountable and transparent institution, as well as a leader among public investment banks.
This paper will distil precise recommendations to the upcoming policy process of the revision of the EIB complaints mechanism and explore forward-looking possibilities to reinforce the accountability architecture of the EIB – including through a strengthened role for the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament.