EIB Adopts New Disclosure Policy

9 May 2006

The European Investment bank has released its new disclosure policy, making a variety of improvements while sticking to secrecy in several areas.

The changes were “welcomed’ as “a step in the right direction” by the CEE Bankwatch Network, a nongovernmental organization that monitors the EIB.

Toby Mendel, from Article 19, commented: “We are pleased to see that the new EIB information policy includes an important underlying concept that we pushed for: the presumption of disclosure-namely that all information held by the EIB is subject to disclosure unless there is a compelling reason for non-disclosure. This presumption is a necessary ingredient for any institution that is serious about transparency. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we will be able to assess the real value of this policy and real changes in the EIB’s transparency only after testing the policy on concrete projects.”

Magda Stoczkiewicz, from the CEE Bankwatch Network, added: “Regrettably the new policy still retains various constraints to disclosure, does not contain clear timelines for releasing information on planned EIB projects, and persists in giving the EIB’s private-sector clients a privileged position in deciding which information should remain confidential.”

The new policy came after a review period of 26 months. It was the first time the EIB had used such a complete public consultation process, including two stages of comment, several public meetings, the release of the penultimate draft, and a summation report noting the comments made and reporting on their disposition. The policy suggests that similar consultation procedures, used for the first time in the context of the disclosure policy review, will be applied to “selected polices” in the future.

The new policy adopted March 28 can be viewed at:
http://www.eib.org/news/news.asp?cat=&news=145

While moving toward a “presumption” in favor of disclosure, the EIB continued to specify that many documents will not be disclosed in order to preserve the “integrity” of EIB decision-making. This constraint was applied to a number of critical documents developed during the project evaluation phase, thus limiting public information about the recommendations of the Bank staff to the EIB board, even after approval.

However, the policy does add the possibility of disclosure in the event an “overriding public interest.”

The EIB also rejected calls to reduce its deference to confidentiality requests from private-sector applicants. Under the policy, “information designated by the Bank’s private sector counterparts as confidential cannot be disclosed.” Further, the Bank retains its policy of not disclosing that some private sector projects are under consideration “to protect justified commercial interests.”

Nor did the Bank accept proposals to require the disclosure of more information on lending by intermediary financial institutions. About 35 percent of EIB lending is made through such “global loan arrangements,” with very little detail available, although the Bank does say that it has “no objection” to the intermediary bank making available information covering its relationship with the EIB.

Another reform urged on the EIB, the creation of a calendar for releasing the agendas for upcoming EIB board meetings-a now common practice at other international financial institutions-was judged “difficult to implement” and not adopted.

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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