* Admissibility date reflects the date the case was officially registered. All other dates pertain to the date in which a stage was completed.
On 27 January 2015, the EIB Complaints Mechanism (EIB-CM) received a complaint regarding the Mediterranean Railway project in Spain. The complainant alleged that the project was being implemented without carrying out an environmental impact assessment. Therefore, the complainant took the view that the project was in breach of National and EU environmental law. Moreover, the complainant added that the project would lead to a considerable increase in railway traffic creating negative environmental impacts and an increase in noise pollution effects in certain areas of the railway’s path. The complainant explained that the reported impacts would also negatively affect the tourism business in the area (campsites and dwellers). The complainant also alleged a lack of economic analysis on the project, a railway demand analysis and technical analysis demonstrating that no traffic increase would occur as a result of the project.
In light of the complainant’s concerns, EIB-CM carried out a review of the complainant’s allegations and examined the documentation provided by the complainant the EIB services and the project borrower. EIB-CM liaised with the EIB’s operational services and held internal consultation meetings with a view to obtaining further information. In addition, EIB-CM reviewed the EIB appraisal and due diligence on the project in relation to the concerns raised.
On the basis of the allegations raised, it appears necessary to clarify some aspects of the EIB’s due diligence and allocation of responsibilities between the EIB and the project borrower in relation to compliance with the applicable environmental laws for EIB-financed projects. In line with the EIB’s standards, the EIB is responsible for checking whether the borrower has conducted a full EIA process for the project where an EIA is applicable. In this context, the EIB carries out due diligence on the assessments performed by the competent national authorities in order to ensure the compliance of such assessments with the EIB's environmental standards and with the relevant EU and national legislation. To the extent necessary, the EIB verifies compliance in order to ensure that its funds are used in a rational manner. This is based on the necessary authorisations related to the project and is supported by other available evidence and its own assessment and loan covenants.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In light of the conveyed findings and the allegations communicated by the complainant, the EIB-CM considers that the project at stake is no exception to the EIB’s applicable standards and procedures when conducting its appraisal and due diligence to ensure compliance of the project with the applicable laws. At this stage, EIB-CM failed to find evidence of a lack of due diligence by the EIB.
With regard to the ongoing environmental analysis report required by the EIB, the EIB-CM recommends making the final report available to the public by publishing it on the project borrower’s website. EIB-CM recommends the EIB services to follow up with the borrower the developments in the national court proceedings with a view to assessing the possible impact of a court decision on the project and on the project’s conformity with the national law. A similar follow-up is recommended with the Committee on Petitions and the European Commission with a view to assessing the outcome of the complaint that had been lodged by the complainant with the Committee on Petitions regarding the project.