EIB Proposes Limit on Disclosure of Framework Agreements, Invites Public Comment on Transparency Policies

12 June 2009


The European Investment Bank (EIB) is proposing to let countries decide whether to disclose the “Framework Agreement” documents that guide EIB lending to individual countries.

Tajikistan is one such country getting EIB help. On February 11, 2009, the EIB announced that the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, and EIP President Philippe Maystadt had signed the Framework Agreement (FA) in Brussels providing the basis for governing EIB’s future lending in Tajikistan.

The agreement, however, was not released and requests for it have been denied.

The treatment of Framework Agreements is not addressed in the 2007 EIB “Public Disclosure Policy.” As described by the Bank, the agreements “set the general conditions under which the EIB may operate in a certain country in support of investment projects.’’

Now, as the EIB is reconsidering its overall disclosure policy, it is proposing to let the recipient governments decide whether to release Framework Agreements. The EIB has proposed a paragraph (54) specifically about them. The Bank said it will disclose them “on request” unless the country concerned is “formally opposed to such disclosure.”

A Bank official wrote freedominfo.org: “Framework Agreements were not specifically mentioned in the previous policy. During the last years there have been various requests to receive the FA signed with Latin American countries, with Albania and, recently, with the Republic of Tajikistan.”

She continued: “Some of the FAs were provided to the requester after receiving the consent from the national authorities. Some of the countries put the FA on the public domain after ratification.”

Not all of them, however.

A recent request by a civil society group for the Tajikistan country strategy was refused, and an appeal is under way.

Anna Roggenbuck, the EIB Campaign Coordinator for CEE Bankwatch Network, was first told that the FA was a “third party document” that could not be disclosed. Later she was told that it could not be released because it was not ratified by Tajikistan government. Considering it was signed by the President, the meaning of “ratification” seemed unclear.

CEE Bankwatch Network is preparing a complaint to the EU Ombudsman.

A June 9 freedominfo.org request for a Framework Agreement that has been released has not been answered yet.


Disclosure Proposal Largely Status Quo

The FA issue aside, the proposed disclosure policy contains virtually no surprises, or advances. It appears to retain virtually all of the key features of the two-year-old policy.

When the disclosure policy was adopted in 2006, critics praised that policy as a step forward, but lamented that it still constrained disclosure, lacked clear timelines for releasing information on planned EIB projects, and gave the EIB’s private-sector clients too much control over which information should remain confidential.

The 2009 proposal will be the subject of a public consultation in Brussels on June 22.

The EIB also has invited comments by July 24 on the proposed disclosure policy and a related, broader “Transparency Policy.” The Luxembourg-based institution also is seeking comments on a proposed Complaints Mechanism Policy, which is being submitted for public consultation for the first time.

Most of the proposed changes are minor modifications. There is a new web site address for making requests. Terminology has been changed to adapt to the times. “Accession countries” are now called “Russian and eastern neighbors.”

There are slight changes in procedures for handling complaints about the denial of requests from persons not resident in the European Union. Complaints from non-EU persons may be lodged with the EU ombudsman, the policy notes, a proviso reflecting an agreement reached with the ombudsman.

One possibly substantive change is an exemption for disclosure concerning public sector projects.

The proposed justification for nondisclosure (Paragraph 80) seems a bit broader, indicating that the “Proposal from the Management Committee to the Board of Directors” will be disclosed “unless the Board decides not to disclose.” The current policy (Paragraph 78) says the information will be disclosed “unless the Board decides not to disclose in a commercially sensitive case.”


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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