Monkeys Play Role in NGO Protest on EIB Transparency

1 July 2003

Seeking to dramatize demands for more transparency at the European Investment Bank, three persons in monkey suits greeted EIB governors arriving for the EIB annual meting June 3 in Luxembourg.

“The Monkeys, covering respectively their ears, eyes and mouth were sent to convey the message: EIB – SEES NO PROBLEM, HEARS NO COMPLAINTS, GIVES NO INFORMATION,” according to a press release from a coalition of nongovernmental organizations.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, campaign coordinator for CEE Bankwatch Network/Friends of the Earth International, explained: “The EIB is a public institution behaving like a private entity from 50 years ago.” The new EIB information policy, announced in late 2002, “is filled with `non-committal phrases’ promising to release information `whenever possible’ and `as early as feasible,'” she said.

“It does not provide a solid basis for affected communities or interested members of the public to execute their right to information,” according Stoczkiewicz. She said the policy “favours the interests of its clients over the interests of affected citizens. Clients, including private companies, decide if information about the project they sought financing for is released or not. This is unacceptable.”

On June 13, the EIB revamped its disclosure policy web page, indicating that it welcomes comments on its disclosure policy and has set up special mail account for this purpose <infopol@eib.org>. The web site also includes links to the disclosure policy.

Details of the Transparency Demands

The 106 NGOs signing a letter in support of greater transparency are seeking to ensure that affected communities are informed and consulted well in advance of the approval of projects and throughout the life of the projects.

More specifically, they asked:

  • that all relevant documents are made public at least 60 days before public consultations,
  • that the EIB support only projects that enjoy the demonstrable free and previously informed consent of all affected communities.
  • that changes be made in the procedure with which the EIB Board decides on loans prior to the Environmental Impact Assessment process.
  • that reforms be made in the transparency of the Bank’s internal procedures.

Examples of Lack of Information Cited

Peter Mihok from CEPA, a Slovakian member group of CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth, said EIB refusal to release details concerning a Bank-backed railroad project in the Slovak Republic keeps the public in the dark about several key conditions.

The EIB says release of the material is up to the promoter and national authorities. “At the same time Slovak authorities point out the provision of business confidentiality that the EIB loan agreement contains, Mihok said. “We, the affected citizens, feel as if we live in a Kafka novel.”

According to Mihok, “The loan to Slovak Railways apparently contains a set of conditions detrimental to the railway sector; such as the dismantling of a part of the regional infrastructure, significant cuts in public subsidies, and a planned reduction in one third of railway employees. Recent closures of a number of regional lines have already led to the first ever strike since the fall of the communist regime. The EIB denies its responsibility in the matter while at the same time refusing to disclose the loan agreement.”

Also from the coalition press release, Antonio Tricarico from Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, said: “The EIB should be a subject of the Aarhus
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice. However, due to its dual status as an EU institution and a bank, the EIB tries to avoid that obligation. The European Commission and Council should ensure that the Bank is clearly bound by Aarhus.”

Full text of the NGO call, the list of signatories and the photographs from the action are available at: http://www.bankwatch.org/issues/eib/mcampaigns.html

By Toby McIntosh

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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).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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