EIB Expects No New Disclosure Policy Soon

1 June 2002

The European Investment Bank has been working on modifications to its information policy for about a year, with the EIB’s critics scratching their heads over when a revised policy will finally emerge.

More than 30 European NGOs have charged that the EIB’s disclosure policy is "critically deficient," and called for full, timely access to all relevant project information. Most recently, NGOs organized around the slogan "No Reform – No Money" have included transparency in a list of preconditions for granting the Bank’s requested capital increase.

In an interview May 30, an EIB communications official said that no new policy is likely to emerge until after the summer. The Bank has refused to provide a draft before making a decision. "We want to get more information from stakeholders, but we don’t want to have a very heavy procedure," said Yvonne Berghorst of the EIB. On June 28, the Bank conducted a briefing session in Copenhagen for interested NGOs on three topics: sustainable development, the Baltic Sea and public information policy.

Part of the delay in developing a new EIB policy resulted from a need to review EIB policies for compatibility with new European Union information disclosure regulation. That process is nearly completed, the EIB spokesperson said, and one result may be a process in which some documents will be disclosed with certain material excised.

The EIB official, however, gave no specifics. She said, "It will certainly be a substantial step toward more transparency in terms of providing more information concerning projects."

Key NGO Demands

In meetings and communications last summer, NGOs stressed two transparency demands.

One issue concerns process. The groups have sought a consolidated draft of the new EIB information policy and a timeline for the decision-making process. The EIB Website simply says the rules are "under review." See generally: http://www.eib.org/policy/index.htm and http://www.eib.org/policy/eibinfopol.htm and also the EIB’s May 2001 document, "Towards a new EIB information policy" in: http://www.eib.org/policy/intro.htm

Secondly, in a letter dated July 16, 2001, and signed by Magda Stoczkiewicz, the EU coordinator for the CEE Bankwatch Network/Friends of the Earth International, the NGOs said the EIB’s disclosure policy "still lags behind internationally recognized standards."

For example, the groups objected to the idea that information on upcoming projects cannot be released if a project promoter refuses disclosure. "The argument that project information cannot be released because disclosure would conflict with obligations of confidentiality during the deliberative process contradicts the goal of participation and partnership."

Further, they wrote, "Allowing promoters to determine information disclosure flies squarely in the face of EU commitments to openness and transparency, and specifically fails to comply with directives relating to information release, as well as the EU’s obligations under Aahus and the Espoo Convention. Exceptions to the right of information are very precisely defined in EU laws as well as the Aarhus Convention. Commercially sensitive information can be defined and omitted in the project description but should not prevent the project from being mentioned in the pipeline (a reference to the EIB’s Project Pipeline report)."

Further, the letter stressed that information released after a decision has been taken "does not foster ownership and cannot be expected to satisfy public demands to participate in project decisions."

In a recent e-mail, Stoczkiewicz said that when an EIB communications department official was asked what policy is currently being followed, she was told "sort of both, the old one and the new one."

A more detailed statement of NGO concerns is available at:

http://www.bankwatch.org/issues/eib/pip-bwncomments-6-01.html

By Toby McIntosh

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

ABOUT IFTI WATCH

In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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