Civil Sector Groups Criticize New EIB Disclosure Policy

1 January 2003

CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth International Dec. 4 charged that the European Investment Bank’s new information policy “fails to live up to expectations” and after two years in the making is “only a slight improvement over the previous one.”

“It’s amazing how vague the new policy is,” said Magda Stoczkiewicz, EIB Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth and the CEE Bankwatch Network in a press release. “With non-committal phrases promising to release information ‘whenever possible’ and ‘as early as feasible’, how is anyone going to enforce public access? Such vague statements are even more unbelievable considering that the EU, whose members own the EIB, has signed on to the Aarhus Convention and is preparing new regulations on access to information.”

In June 2001, NGOs presented detailed suggestions for change, including a proposal for improving public consultations. None of the recommendations, however, made it into the Bank’s final document, the groups said.

The statement continued: “Although the new policy contains some more ‘positive’ language, it is still biased in favour of large corporate clients over the interested public. For instance, the Bank still reserves the right to withhold information based on its so-called ‘obligation of professional secrecy’ and the ‘commercial interests’ of its public and private clients.”

“Under the old rules, neither communities affected by EIB-financed projects nor concerned NGOs were able to obtain any project-related information. We are afraid that the new rules won’t change this situation,” Stoczkiewicz said. She added that Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth “have continuously asked for the Bank to disclose all projects it is currently considering for financing – a practice common in other International Financial Institutions. The new policy does not even touch that issue. After a two-year review, we were hoping for more than cosmetic changes.”

NGO comments on the Information Policy from June 2001 can be downloaded from http://www.bankwatch.org/issues/meib.html.

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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).
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