EU Committee Defers Action on Report Critical of the EIB

18 March 2004

A committee of the European Parliament, to the surprise of some observers, did not flatly reject Spanish parliamentarian Monica Ridruejo’s critical report about governance and transparency at the European Investment Bank.

Instead, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on March 16 opened up the door to amendments to the report and a vote on it in early April. The committee set a March 26 deadline for the submission of potential amendments. It is expected that the topic will come up again in the committee April 5 and 6.

The March 16 development was welcomed by a consortium of nongovernmental organizations sympathetic to the report, although the coalition noted in a March 17 press release that they "are concerned that the report will be completely watered down in the discussions to come." The release was prepared by Friends of the Earth International, CEE Bankwatch Network and Campaign to Reform the World Bank.

According to the release Ridruejo "was herself very unhappy with the way EMAC colleagues approached the issue. Many seemed to have not even read the report. In her speech she emphasised that the Parliament is responsible for ensuring improved corporate governance within the EIB and pointed out that should it neglect this responsibility both the Parliament and the European Commission would be discredited."

The NGO account quotes Ridruejo as saying, "It is not the responsibility of the European Parliament to agree with the EIB on the report. This makes a fiction of the Parliament’s supervisory role."

In an e-mail to freedominfo.org, Ridruejo said, "There was a heated discussion last Tuesday, with responses from colleagues which were really outrageous and, as I said to them, showed they had not read the report in the first place."

She also reported, "They even said that corporate governance was not an issue the European Parliament and EIB should be concerned about, nor on independency of directors."

Magda Stoczkiewicz, leading the EIB campaign for CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth International, stated, "The EIB does not live up to the standards expected of a public financial institution and needs to change." She also said, "We believe that the European Parliament has an important role to play in stimulating reform within the EIB and therefore we are calling for thorough discussion of the issues mentioned in Ms. Ridruejo’s report."

Stoczkiewicz added, "The EIB admits there are problems but wants to keep them under the carpet. Parliament should look under that carpet, take a solid stand and ask for a thorough investigation into the flawed aspects of the bank’s governance."

Martin Koehler, from the Italian Campaign to Reform the World Bank, commented, "It is important for European policy to have access to capital through a house bank such as the EIB. But nobody is helped by a bank which hides from view in the Luxembourg valleys and which is so blatantly out of tune with European developments as the EIB clearly is. The European Parliament can not allow these critical issues to be buried indefinitely."

Freedominfo.org also has obtained some additional relevant documents, particularly an exchange of letters between Ridruejo and EIB Board President Philipe Maystadt.

Maystadt’s letter of March 9, 2004

Ridruejo’s reply of March 15, 2004

More information on the NGO EIB campaign is available at:
http://www.bankwatch.org/issues/eib/meib.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).
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