The European Investment Bank (EIB) and its Mandate


The EIB is a bank owned by the EU and works closely with the other EU institutions to implement EU policy and represent the interests of the EU member states. About 90 percent of its financing activities are focused in Europe, while the other 10 percent is invested in supporting EU development and cooperation policies in partner countries outside the EU.[1] Amongst these partner countries are the ACPs and South Africa where the EIB invested roughly EUR 1.6bn in several projects in 2015.[2] While the EIB is not merely a development bank, it does have a development mandate as is stated in the Lisbon Treaty.[3]

Transparency and Accountability at the EIB


In programs and policies of international development organizations, transparency and accountability, alongside with participation and inclusion have become widely accepted.[4] Under international law, the right to access information of public authorities, such as the EIB, is considered a fundamental obligation. This right is an important tool to better achieving lending goals, to reduce corruption, to identify social, environmental and economic benefits and to avoid damaging communities and sensitive ecosystems.[5] In its transparency policy the EIB commits to routinely publishing institutional information. It further commits to ensuring that the stakeholders are heard, engaged in projects and that “qualitative” transparency requires an ongoing dialogue between the Bank and stakeholders over information provision.[6] On the other hand the Bank also withholds the right to ensure and safeguard sensitive information, which is tenable in some cases and is misused in others.

To what length does the Bank uphold its own commitments for transparency and accountability? And can withholding information stand in the way of the EIB’s development mandate?

Transparency & accountability: a key issue


For the past five years transparency watchdog Publish What You Fund (PWYF) has published its new Aid Transparency Index (ATI), which analyses and ranks donor organisations, using different indicators, to assess how transparent they are.[7] For five years the EIB has scored poorly, albeit with gradual progress. The first years the EIB scored around 25 percent. It is in this period, in 2011, that that a scandal breaks loose on a $50 million EIB investment in a Glencore copper mine operation in Zambia. Word of a major tax evasion in one of the world’s poorest countries, sparked questions about the Banks ability and willingness to track its investments and to do due diligence. Yet, after the Bank preformed a two-year investigation into the possible tax avoidance, it refused to make its findings public.[8] The Glencore-case became a symbol of the lack of transparency and accountability at the EIB, and even though the Bank stopped their funding for Glencore and said to improve its policies, the Aid Transparency Index amongst others demonstrates that there is still a lot of work ahead.

This year the EIB scored a modest 53.5 percent and was ranked 24th out of 46 donor organizations. In 2015 another assessment from the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) looked into the transparency and accountability mechanisms at the EIB and concluded that there are in fact too many flaws to guarantee the right to access information of public authorities.[9] The number of comparable researches from civil society organisations continuous.[10]

Today still, the EIB fails to disclose all public documents and explain why they keep certain information classified. The Bank will portray itself as a climate leader, but supported a car manufacturer, to promote climate friendly investments. However as was the case for Volkswagen, the recent emission scandal once more questioned the Banks’ ability to properly perform due diligence over billions of euros in public funds.[11]

Another issue concerns its lack of engagement with all stakeholders in its projects and providing a decent safeguard and complaint mechanism.[12] Especially in developing countries these flaws become visible.  More than once the EIB does not properly report the socioeconomic repercussions from the projects they finance. For example, its social and economic summary on the Gambia River Basin Development Organization Energy Project (OMVG), situated in West-Africa, states that “settlements near the corridor of impact are not affected and physical resettlements are rare[13], while the extended study from independent agencies states that in fact 1436 people will need to move.

Furthermore is there not always a guarantee for an engaged dialogue with these local communities. And even if people affected would want to make use of the EIBs’ Complaint Mechanism, is this process hindered by the fact that the policy is only available in EU languages and not in the local languages spoken in Africa. Once a complaint is filed and appropriate recommendations are made, this is still no guarantee for access to remedy, as the Complaint Mechanism is not mandated to make binding decisions.[14]



While the EIB is making some progress, there are still a lot of improvements needed for more transparency and accountability. Firstly, the EIB should fully, correctly and clearly disclose all information to the public including partner countries, or at least reason why it withholds some. Additionally the EIB should work on further developing and strengthening its Complaint Mechanism and other safeguards. The Bank should furthermore, make more room for engagement from local stakeholders.

Everyone has the right to be informed and engaged in order to assert their fundamental rights. People should be able to take up their role as a watchdog, as well as there should be instruments available to ensure the protection of their rights and wellbeing. Decisions made by policy makers and public officials, behind closed doors and in hallways will affect citizens as much as those that are front-page news. And because every one of those decisions will determine in what direction we’ll develop, it is fundamental to incorporate a transparent and accountable policy, in order for this development to be sustainable.


Eva Demaré

Intern Policy Officer AEFJN


1] EIB, 2016, retrieved from:

[2] EIB, 2015, retrieved from:

[3] Counter Balance, “EIB and development, a chance to clean up its act”, 2013, retrieved from:

[4] Carnegie, “Accountability, Transparency, Participation and Inclusion: a new Develoment Consensus?”, 2014, retrieved from:

[5] BankWatch Network, “A Public Bank? The EIB’s Lack of Transparency and Participation”, retrieved from:

[6] EIB, 2016, retrieved from:

[7] Aid transparency Index, 2016, retrieved from:

[8], 2014, retrieved from:

[9] Eurodad, “An assessment of transparency and accountability mechanisms at the european Investment Bank and the International Finance Corporation”, retrieved from:

[10] Counterbalance, retrieved from &; BankWatch Network, retrieved from:; Euractiv, 2016, retrieved from:; GrievanceMechanisms, 2016, retrieved from:; Ombudsman EU, 2016, retrieved from:,…

[11]  Euractiv, 2016, retrieved from:

[12] Eurodad, “An assessment of transparency and accountability mechanisms at the european Investment Bank and the International Finance Corporation”, retrieved from:

[13] EIB, “Environmental and Social Data Sheet”, 2015, retrieved from:

[14] Eurodad, “An assessment of transparency and accountability mechanisms at the european Investment Bank and the International Finance Corporation”, retrieved from: