Campaigners are urging the UK Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to help halt a dangerous slide towards secrecy at a giant bank of which the UK is an owner.
The already secretive European Investment Bank is proposing to make it far harder for European citizens to find out what it is up to, despite the fact it is a ‘public’ bank owned by EU countries.
The UK Treasury has two seats on the Bank’s board of directors, which also includes officials from all EU member states, while Mr Osborne sits on the Bank’s Board of Governors, along with other EU finance ministers.
Now Christian Aid, Publish What You Fund and ActionAid are urging the Treasury officials to speak out against the plans at the Bank’s next board meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, 16th September.
“The Bank’s planned lurch towards secrecy is extraordinary,” said Joseph Stead, Senior Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid. ‘At a time when the rest of the world has recognised that companies behave better when the public can find out what they’re doing, the Bank is proposing to conceal more than ever.
“Even more shocking is that this is being proposed by a bank that is effectively owned by us, the people of Europe. The European Parliament has made numerous calls on the EIB to act more transparently but its response is to move in the opposite direction.”
Rachel Rank, Director of Publish What You Fund, added: “We urge George Osborne and the Treasury to ensure the UK uses next week’s board meeting to demand that the EIB revisits these restrictive plans and instead pursues openness about its affairs. We hope the public interest will prevail and the UK will take the lead on this.”
Barry Johnston, Head of Advocacy at ActionAid, said: “Last year at the G8, the government set out proposals for “a new agenda of transparency and accountability in developing countries”. The Chancellor must now fight to ensure this agenda is protected against these shocking backwards steps being proposed in Europe.”
The European Investment Bank last year lent Euros 71.7 billion to projects within and outside Europe; around 10 per cent of its funding goes to more than 150 countries outside the European Union, including in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as well as the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Bank-financed projects include motorways, pipelines and power stations.
According to the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, the Bank is already lagging behind other multilateral organisations in terms of transparency. The Index rated it as ‘poor’ – one rung above the worst rating of ‘very poor’, as part of an assessment and ranking of 67 donor organisations. The 2014 Index will be published next month and the EIB’s performance is not expected to improve.
This summer, the Bank launched a public consultation on proposals to change its ‘transparency’ policy in ways which would allow it to hide even more information than at present. A Counter Balance briefing lists the most worrying changes.
The Bank has invited comments on its proposals by 26th September 2014.
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