The EIB Revised Transparency Policy: What is the right balance between private and public interest?

Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 10:56

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is currently revising its transparency policy. As part of that process, it organised a public consultation in September around its draft revised policy, and civil society organisations (CSOs) were invited to provide comments.

17 CSOs made a joint submission to the EIB with concrete suggestions to improve the transparency policy in important ways. They stressed that the draft Policy does not adequately reflect key international standards and principles relating to transparency.

In EIB-supported activities, transparency can help to better achieve lending goals, reduce corruption, identify potential social, environmental and economic benefits, and avoid adverse impacts on communities and sensitive ecosystems. Transparency can also help tax authorities in countries hosting investors  to raise the fair share of tax from companies making profits in those countries, as has been the claim regarding Mopani’s operations in Zambia.

This process of revision offers an important opportunity for the Bank to address structural issues with the existing Transparency Policy. However, the draft submitted to consultation was, on a number of issues, going in the wrong direction, with many cases where the EIB seemed to put the interests of the Bank’s clients ahead of any commitment to true transparency.  As stressed by Christian Aid, Publish What You Fund and ActionAid : ‘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.’

The protection of human rights is at the core of EU external policies under the EU treaties, and this must be respected in EIB operations outside the EU. In view of the huge potential impact of EIB activities on human rights in host countries, and the fact that the EIB is a public institution whose shareholders are EU member states, transparency should be a core principle underpinning all of its operations.

The European Parliament has made numerous calls on the EIB to act more transparently. Some positive efforts have been made  by the EIB over the past few years, like signing the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and the launch earlier in 2014 of an online registry of environmental documents. But much remains to be done…

Is the Bank going to move now in the right direction? We will know it when the second draft of the Revised Transparency Policy becomes available later this month. Final adoption is planned for February next year.