Life begins at 50 for European Investment Bank, hopes civil society

Luxembourg — Environment and social campaign groups from across Europe today marked the 50th anniversary celebrations of the European Investment Bank (EIB) by pointing out to the European Union’s house bank that “Life begins at 50—We hope.”

The EIB has attracted sustained criticism from civil society organisations in Europe and across the world because of its non-transparent institutional nature, its lack of binding environmental and social standards—especially in its increasing lending activities in Africa, Asia and Latin America—and its continuing support for major fossil fuel extraction projects that undermine the bank’s recent improved record in funding renewable energy projects.

Desislava Stoyanova, co-ordinator of Counter Balance: Challenging the European Investment Bank, a new coalition of European NGOs concerned at the lending practices of the EIB, said: “We hope that the EIB has grown out of its youthful indulgences, backing dodgy projects without being accountable to anyone. Now that it’s entering middle age, the EIB will hopefully slow down and start to behave more responsibly.”

Anne-Sophie Simpere, of Amis de la Terre, one of the Counter Balance groups, said: “The EIB is a big boy now and people are paying it a lot more attention. It can no longer get away with supporting projects that might fit the bottom line on the spreadsheet but don’t fit EU policies on climate change mitigation, poverty allevation and sustainable development. Like all of us, as it grows up the EIB is having to realise that with more money and more power comes more responsibility.”

The EIB loaned EUR 48 billion of taxpayer-backed cash last year.

At a series of actions today in Luxembourg unofficially run in tandem with the EIB’s annual meeting of its board of governors, Counter Balance campaigners distributed spoof newspapers showing how things could look in the brave new world of the EIB’s more sustainable, small-scale, community-driven future.
Anders Lustgarten of Counter Balance, in his ‘for one day only’ role of head of policy at the EIB, laid out a positive new vision for the EIB at two public press conferences in Luxembourg. The EIB’s ‘new’ policies include:

  • phasing out its major involvement in fossil fuels and extractive industries
  • providing effective aid support in line with EU policies that prioritises people on the ground
  • ruling out potential funding support for the nuclear industry
  • ensuring that its future investments in the transport sector are ‘carbon negative’.

Prince Kumwamba, of Congolese NGO ACIDH which has criticised the EIB over its role in the highly controversial Tenke Fungurume copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: “These changes at the EIB sound absolutely wonderful, and are at long last in line with what Southern communities and economies really need, rather than some huge oil field or open cast mine that creams off our natural resources with little accruing to us except clean-up costs. When these policies become reality, we will truly have something to celebrate.”

For more information, contact:

Greig Aitken (in Luxembourg)
Counter Balance/CEE Bankwatch Network
Mobile: +420 605 216 705
Email: press at bankwatch.org

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