* Admissibility date reflects the date the case was officially registered. All other dates pertain to the date in which a stage was completed.
The Project is a private- public partnership (“PPP”) for the design, building, financing, operation and maintenance of the Istanbul Strait “Eurasia” Tunnel with access roads on the European and Asian sides, with a total length of about 14.6 km. The Project includes a toll plaza, two ventilation shafts and an operations building. Traffic through the tunnel will be restricted to light vehicles i.e. no heavy traffic allowed and the design speed will be 80 km/h. The realisation of the Project should permit to alleviate the current high traffic pressure on the existing bridges on the Bosphorus.
The complainants felt that the “Eurasia tunnel project environmental and social impact assessment” (ESIA) did not meet international standards. The complainants had already conveyed their comments on the report to the authors of the ESIA with a list questions and doubts about its compliance.
At first the Turkish Authorities screened the project without an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). However, due to the involvement of International Financing Institutions, such as the EIB, a firm of international consultants carried out an ESIA. As part of the EIB’s due diligence the initial ESIA produced was reviewed and brought in line with the Environmental and Social standards as required by the lenders.
The promoter carried out consultation with various administrative bodies and institutional stakeholder, which, however, was felt to be not sufficient by the EIB and the other financiers. The EIB and the other financiers required that a stakeholder engagement plan be developed, including a consultation plan and grievance mechanism (with register). Primary and secondary stakeholders were identified and consultation was carried out for a period of 9 weeks from 7th of March to 8th of May 2011. The report on the ESIA consultation includes comments from a number of public institutes and includes the written comments received during the primary and secondary stakeholder consultation process.
The EIB services informed the EIB-CM that special efforts had been made to liaise with UNESCO and the different Preservation Councils as well as with the Ministry responsible for archaeology and historic buildings and as a result of these consultations, design changes were made.
Concerning traffic safety in the tunnel and in general, the overall project, including access roads, underwent a Road Safety Audit in line with EU Directive 2008/96/EC. This Safety Audit was reviewed by the EIB services; it highlighted which measures have not been undertaken, together with the relevant explanations, and agreements on the main outcomes. As part of the project undertakings further Road Safety Audits will have to be carried out for the next design phases until at least the first phase of operation, and the outcomes and reflections of these will have to be satisfactory to the EIB. Overall the EIB is confident that the tunnel design and the prescriptions for the operation phase comply with the main international safety standards, EU Directive 2004/54/EC, NFPA 502&101 and PIARC prescriptions.
In the case of this project, in the second stage of the PPP project cycle, and although there is a Board of Directors approval, a final financing proposal for the project has not yet been presented and no contracts have been signed. The EIB’s services are finalising the ESIA which should ascertain that the EIB’s environmental and social policy and principles are respected. Consequently the EIB-CM is not in a position to verify compliance with the relevant EIB policies and procedures. It appears that all documents (ESIA including an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) and a Resettlement Framework) were made available to the public.As the work on the ESIA has not yet been completed and the financing approval is expected soon the EIB-CM proposes a Mediation Function as a possible way forward. As for any mediation, to be successful the process needs the full cooperation and agreement by all the various internal and external stakeholders involved.