Counter Balance activity report 2014

Wondering what we have been up to last year? Read all about it in our 2014 activity report

Acitivity report2014

Our Director, Xavier Sol, outlines the most important things of last year and the main challenges for the next in his opening letter as a way of introduction.

Being the only coalition fully dedicated to scrutinising public banks at European level, Counter Balance holds a unique position in the Brussels NGO landscape. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) together lent and invested over EUR 100 billion in 2014. But the scrutiny of these institutions is not at all in proportion to their financial impact.

Moreover, with its pivotal role in Juncker’s investment plan for Europe – the top priority of the new president of the European Commission – the role and the impact of the EIB in particular will exponentially increase over the coming years. By 2018 the bank is expected to leverage an additional €315 billion of investments in the EU.

Consequently public scrutiny is more important than ever if we want those €315 billion to be spent in the best interest of EU citizens. Based on our experience in monitoring the EIB we identified three main threats which need to be tackled urgently: a democratic deficit associated to a lack of transparency and accountability, the use of questionable and risky financial instruments and the large amount of unsustainable projects on the priority list.

Thanks to our expertise on the EIB we could immediately react to this investment plan and cooperate with various allies including other NGOs from the beginning of the process. We engaged with decision makers and members of European Parliament to raise awareness about those risks and have conveyed our key messages in EU media to open a broader public debate on the merits of this Juncker plan.

The investment plan is still in full preparation and will not be in force before the end of 2015. Therefore this year will be crucial to shape it further. We will continue our efforts to ensure that those additional funds are spent transparently and responsibly on sustainable projects which in a decade’s time will still prove to be meaningful.

At the same time we are not losing track of the activities of the EIB and EBRD outside of Europe. 2015 is the European Year of Development but the operations of EU’s public banks are still not fully aligned with the EU development objectives and lack a clear pro-poor approach. In this context, the fight against tax dodging will feature high on Counter Balance’s agenda to ensure that the EIB plays a leading role in this regard. We will also continue monitoring projects on the ground together with local groups and communities in order to ensure that sustainable projects which positively affect the lives of the most vulnerable are being prioritised.

A public investment bank can be a powerful tool to push for positive change but if a strong policy framework and ambitious targets are lacking it is reduced to a lever of and sponsor for private investments which can go in any direction. In 2015we will be launching a series of events to collectively re-define basic principles for public banks to truly become engines of an ecological and social transition to a more sustainable economic system. We remain fully dedicated to make the public interest central in the lending of our European investment banks.

 

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