The review of EIB's public information policy in October 2002 has sparked off considerable public interest. This briefing note addresses issues raised about the transparency of the Bank's information policy.
Information policy review
- One of EIB's key corporate objectives is to achieve a high level of transparency on its activities and to communicate effectively with all stakeholders. In the context of its continued commitment to this objective, the EIB carried out a review of its public information policy in October 2002 ( http://www.eib.org/news/policy/ ).
- The framework for the EIB's public information policy is shaped by EU policies on transparency and public disclosure of information and related legislation, and the Bank's responsibility to its shareholders, the EU Member States. At the same time, the Bank has to protect the interests of its customers, having a duty to respect the confidentiality of business sensitive information and the privacy interests of individuals. Its information policy must also support the effectiveness of the Bank's decision-making processes and operations.
- In parallel, EIB revised its "Rules on Public Access to Documents", taking account of the principles and limits of the EU's prevailing legislation in the area of transparency, i.e. EU Regulation 1049/2001 (which covers public access to documents held by the European Parliament, Council and Commission).
- The main documents outlining the EIB's public information policy are:
- Information Policy Statement (available in all EU languages)
- How EIB Communicates - An Overview (available in English, French and German)
- Rules on Public Access to Documents (available in all EU languages)
- Code of Good Administrative Behaviour for the Staff of the EIB in its Relations with the Public (available in all EU languages)
- Contact Details (available in English, French and German).
- EIB's language regime in the area of public information requires staff members to ensure, as far as possible, that citizens writing to the Bank in one of the EU languages receive a reply in the same language.
- All statutory EIB documents are available in all official EU languages - including the Bank's annual Activities Report. In principle, all EIB publications are available, at the very least, in English, French and German, and in other languages as appropriate to meet specific public interest and business targets.
- All publications, in their different language versions are available on the EIB website.
- The Bank's organization structure is published on the website and in the Annual Report, and identifies the hierarchical responsibilities, by name, down to Head of Division.
- EIB regards its public information policy as an evolving, flexible process, reflecting EU policy development and subject to continuous evaluation and quality assessment. It welcomes comments from all stakeholders with a view to future development of the policy and has set up a mailbox email@example.com to promote this.
- EIB publishes advance information on the projects it considers for financing on its website. Projects are introduced onto the project pipeline list when the Bank has advanced sufficiently in discussions with the promoter, before a decision by the Board of Directors, and at the same time as the European Commission and the Member States are asked for their opinions.
- It should be noted that the EIB Board of Directors provides an approval for financing a project. The Board's decision may be conditional on any outstanding issues being resolved in the continuing discussion between the EIB and the project promoter. The Bank only becomes committed to financing the project at the time of loan contract signature. The loan financing contract may also contain specific conditions that have to be met before disbursement of funds.
- The Bank's decision making and appraisal processes with regard to projects in the pipeline are described in the Project Cycle brochure, posted on the EIB website.
- In principle all projects appear on the list except those where the promoter specifically requests confidentiality to protect commercial interests. In 2002, nearly 70% of projects considered by the EIB were introduced onto the project pipeline list.
- EIB publishes a project brief for each project on the project pipeline list. The briefs contain the name of the project; its location; the relevant sector; information on the project promoter; a short project description; its objectives; the proposed EIB financing and total project costs; information on the environmental and procurement aspects of the project; and its status - under appraisal, Board approval, or signature. Social implications of the project are included where relevant.
- Whenever the public asks for more project details, their queries are dealt with by the Information and Communications Department. In giving access to information and documents, the Bank applies the principle of equal treatment towards both individual citizens and legal persons. If projects attract considerable public attention, more details are published on the EIB's website (in the section "Topical Projects").
- EIB operational and technical staff is ready to meet with local NGOs during their missions, if appropriate, to discuss a project.
- Any individual request from the public for contact with individual staff members involved in a project is considered with care in accordance with the Bank's "Code of Good Administrative Behaviour for the Staff of the EIB in its Relations with the Public".
- EIB's public disclosure policy with regard to global loan allocations differs from its information policy on individual loans. Disclosure of detailed information on global loan allocations is the competence of the intermediary bank, as business partner for the end beneficiary, carrying the project's commercial risks and signing the finance contract. Under all global loan arrangements, the EIB ensures that the partner bank is committed to and capable of implementing EIB criteria. The EIB provides, on request, aggregate data on global loan financing, including country and sector breakdowns.
Environmental and social aspects of projects
- All EIB financed projects have gone through a satisfactory public consultation process, where this is necessary (legal obligation in EU Member States and Accession Countries, best practice benchmarks elsewhere ).
- National and/or European legislation define the responsibilities for disclosing documents related to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. EIB has no legal responsibility in this respect. However, the Bank encourages the promoters of projects it finances to make those EIA related documents for which they are responsible easily accessible by the public, for example via their websites. EIB provides on request any non-technical EIA document on its files.
- EIB has published a summary of its environmental procedures and guidelines.
- EIB acknowledges that social issues are of increasing public concern and is currently strengthening its procedures and guidelines for social assessment, as well as staff expertise in this area. In lending in the Partner Countries, the Bank pays particular attention to social issues.
- Operating as a bank, EIB has to take into account the normal confidentiality needs of its customers. It has to respect European and national legal provisions on confidentiality with regard to business-sensitive information (1); the effectiveness of its decision-making process which is crucial in sustaining EIB's ability to carry out its tasks; and respect for the privacy interests of individuals. In the interests of ensuring greater transparency, EIB encourages project promoters and borrowers to provide as much information as possible about their projects, including information on financial aspects, where appropriate to satisfy public interest in the investments.
- EIB does not disclose Finance Contracts, which are covered by an undertaking on confidentiality. However, the Bank has no objection to the promoter or borrower deciding to release information contained in the Finance Contract.
- The Bank will not disclose financial data on promoters, borrowers and co-financing institutions, its own internal analysis and comments on such data, industrial processes and market information.
- EIB Board documents contain EIB evaluations based on confidential information of market significance. The Bank has a legitimate interest in safeguarding the effectiveness of its decision-making processes, which is crucial in sustaining EIB's ability to carry out its tasks.
- The EIB publishes all the reports by its Project Evaluation Department. Individual detailed project evaluations are not available, as they are considered confidential.
Dialogue with civil society groups
- The EIB recognizes that NGOs, as public interest groups, can have a valuable input into:
- the evolution of policy at both a national and international level;
- ensuring institutions such as EIB are sensitive and more aware of local issues when considering support for a project;
- providing additional information that can be useful in helping such institutions in making their evaluations of investments.
- Therefore, EIB maintains a dialogue with NGOs, which it launched in the mid nineties. Its aim is to strengthen relations through discussions on general policy issues, such as EIB's information policy, its environmental activities in, for instance, the water and renewable energy sectors, its contribution to the EU's development cooperation policies, as well as on specific projects.
- Key elements of EIB's dialogue with NGOs are:
- NGO Workshops that the Bank holds about twice a year;
- EIB staff participation in EIB-dedicated events organized by NGOs;
- bilateral meetings between EIB staff and local NGOs on projects.
- EIB-NGO Workshops are held on a regional basis in various locations in the EU, Acceding and Accession Countries, as well as (potentially) in Partner Countries. Participants address issues that have been defined together by EIB and interested NGOs. EIB operational and technical staff and Board Members are invited to participate in the discussions. The latest Workshop took place in Marseille on 31 October 2003.
(1) The Bank's (pre) contractual relationships with business partners is subject to legal restrictions on disclosure of project-related information, as prevailing in the EU Members States and other countries (as a statutory obligation or derived from common law concerning property and contract), as well as in EU legislation. Article 287 of the EC Treaty prohibits staff members of EU institutions from disclosing "information covered by the obligation of professional secrecy, in particular information about undertakings, their business relations or their cost components". The Bank's statutory duty of confidentiality covers any information concerning financial or personal data of clients and their commercial or professional secrets. In addition, best practice in the banking sector requires business confidentiality standards and practices.
Updated on 27 June 2003, 29 October 2003