The European Investment Bank (EIB), created in 1958 by the Treaty of Rome, is the long-term lending bank of the European Union. In 2020, the European Investment Bank Group signed a total of €76.8 billion worth of loans. The bank’s mission is “to contribute towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of the eU Member States. 1 ” It lends money to projects that further eU policy objectives. These projects cover a number of geographical regions and a wide range of topics 2 . The EIB has a complaint mechanism composed of the EIB Complaints Mechanism and of the European Ombudsman. The former is an internal mechanism, independent from operational activities; the latter is an external and independent mechanism. In case of maladministration by the EIB Group, a complaint can be filed with the EIB complaints mechanism. If the complainant is unsatisfied, there is the possibility to lodge a complaint with the european Ombudsman against the EIB. The European Ombudsman’s recommendations are non-binding, and it can only rule on EIB “maladministration”.
In March 2015, the EIB adopted a new Transparency Policy, 3 which defines the EIB procedures concerning information requests from the public, the information that the EIB makes routinely available to the public, and EIB’s approach to transparency and stakeholder engagement. 4 This Transparency Policy replaces the 2010 one, 5 which was revised following a public consultation process launched in July 2014, and during which the views and comment of a wide range of stakeholders were collected through written contributions and consultation meetings 6 .
The new Transparency Policy was criticised by several CSOs in particular in relation to: a) provisions expanding exceptions to the disclosure of internal documents, namely by adding in a presumption that all documents related to investigations, reports and audits into irregularities such as corruption and maladministration shall be confidential, even if they concern matters of public interest and even once investigations are closed, b) for failing to respect the Aarhus convention and eU Regulation 1367/2006 on disclosure of environmental information, and c) for not imposing an obligation on the EIB to disclose information regarding loans which go through financial intermediaries. 7
During the public consultation process regarding the policy, the european Ombudsman’s representative also recommended against including the exceptions on of internal documents. 8