Press release: 22 December 2020

Transparency needed for EIB to become ‘Europe’s Climate Bank’

The European Investment Bank (EIB) must take a major step to improve transparency in its upcoming public consultation, to properly assess the social and environmental impacts of its lending practices, environmental organisations have warned.

Climate finance experts from CEE Bankwatch Network, Counter Balance and ClientEarth are calling on the publicly owned financial institution – which funds infrastructure projects in Europe and is at the core of the EU’s economic response to the Covid-19 crisis – to reveal more about which projects it funds and how.

Yesterday, the EIB opened a formal consultation on its transparency policy. The three organisations will recommend increasing the amount of information the EIB ‘actively disseminates’ – meaning the documents it uploads to its website of its own initiative.

The European Ombudsman is already investigating the worrying lack of transparency of EIB lending, which negates any proper assessments of its environmental impact.

In June, lawyers for the three organisations lodged a complaint to the Ombudsman arguing that the lack of publicly available documents is a violation of EU law and constitutes maladministration. In response, three separate inquiries have been launched.

Campaigners say that the push for greater disclosure is particularly important for the EIB’s transparency register. Currently, the bank uploads documents showing what it has already done. But campaigners say it is crucial for information to be made public about the bank’s ongoing decision-making processes. This includes information about:

  • Which projects the EIB chooses to finance and how it makes these decisions;
  • Which projects are funded through intermediaries, given the bank lends to numerous commercial banks and investment funds, who then fund specific projects; and,
  • How projects are monitored as they are being implemented.

ClientEarth Lawyer Sebastian Bechtel said: “We’ve informed the European Ombudsman that current EIB policies surrounding transparency fall far short of what is required by EU law, and amount to maladministration.

“As the EU’s leading investment vehicle for infrastructure projects, the EIB has a responsibility to be more transparent about its internal decision-making processes – both for the sake of democracy and for the planet. We hope this consultation will lead to real changes in shining a light on its climate contribution.”

Xavier Sol of Counter Balance said: “The EIB is supposed to become Europe’s Climate Bank, as well as a key financier of the European Green Deal. In 2019, the bank took important climate commitments – including a new policy to stop funding fossil fuels. However, without proper transparency of its lending practices and decision-making, it’s hard to ensure accountability on these commitments.”

Anna Roggenbuck, Policy Officer at CEE Bankwatch Network said: “Citizens in Europe and beyond need to better understand how public money is being used by the financial arm of the EU. The EIB must ensure they have access to all relevant information on projects which impact them. The EIB needs to drastically raise its transparency so that it can prove it invests in the interest of citizens and their territories.”


Notes to editors:

On 22 June 2020, CEE Bankwatch Network, Counter Balance and ClientEarth filed a complaint to the European Ombudsman concerning the Bank’s failure to disclose and disseminate environmental information.

On 27 July 2020, the Ombudsman started three separate inquiries based on this complaint. The first inquiry concerns the EIB’s practice of disclosing information concerning projects it finances directly.

The second concerns information about projects financed by the EIB but where funds are administered by intermediaries, such as national banks or financial institutions.

The third inquiry concerns the failure by the EIB to give access to minutes of the meetings of its Management Committee.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.

About CEE Bankwatch Network

CEE Bankwatch Network is the largest network of grassroots, environmental and human rights groups in central and eastern Europe. It monitors public finance institutions that are responsible for hundreds of billions of investments across the globe. Together with local communities and other NGOs Bankwatch works to expose their influence and provide a counterbalance to their unchecked power.

About Counter Balance

Counter Balance is a European coalition of development and environmental NGOs with extensive experience working on development finance and the international financial institutions as well as campaigning to prevent negative impacts resulting from major infrastructure projects. Counter Balance’s mission is to make European public finance a key driver of the transition towards socially and environmentally sustainable and equitable societies. The coalition was formed in 2007 to specifically challenge the European Investment Bank (EIB) and push for its reform.