European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
The London-based EBRD was established in 1990 and started operations the following year. Its owners are the EU states plus the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea and all recipient states. It was set up to aid the transition to market economies and multiparty democracy in the former Eastern Bloc, but since then it has expanded to include Mongolia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. It is uniquely obliged by its mandate to pursue sustainable development in all its activities, however it has long been subject to civil society scrutiny for its part in various problematic projects. After its involvement in a series of controversial coal projects (PDF), in 2013 a positive step forward occurred when the bank announced in its Energy Strategy that it would finance greenfield coal power plants only in ‘rare and exceptional circumstances’. However the bank has still not publicly ruled out financing the highly controversial Kosovo C lignite plant, and is still considering coal projects that are not greenfield plants, such as rehabilitations, mining projects and other associated projects such as coal processing.
The EBRD, like other multilateral public banks, has its own set of policies on environmental and social standards and corruption. All its projects must be in line with these standards, which are based on EU standards but adjusted to suit the bank’s work. These include provisions on, for example, biodiversity protection and resettlement. Also, all EBRD projects must be in line with national legislation of the country where the project is situated. The bank has a public information policy which obliges it to answer requests for information usually within 20 working days, so you should get a response to your communication.
The EBRD’s staff often assess projects to see whether they meet the bank’s conditions long before the public knows that the bank is interested in the project. Once the bankers are relatively sure about the project, they are supposed to publish information about the projects in “project summary documents” on the EBRD website before the bank’s Board of Directors approves them. Sometimes other information such as an environmental impact assessment or procurement notices are also published earlier. The project summary document usually states when the project is due to be approved by the bank’s board of directors. You are more likely to convince the bank not to finance a project if you catch it at an early stage, so it is good to take a pro-active approach and ask the bank whether it has been requested to finance a project.
The EBRD has four official working languages: English, Russian, German and French, although English and Russian are the most common in practice, with French becoming more common with the bank’s expansion to North Africa. If you communicate in another language, it may be better to first contact the EBRD office in your country or contact Bankwatch (email@example.com) or another NGO to help you with the communication with the bank.
When you communicate with the EBRD, the bank is more likely to take your comments seriously if you can show that a project violates the bank’s environmental and social policy or its anti-corruption policies – Bankwatch may be able to help with this. Try to include clear evidence as much as possible and to show what sources of information you are using to support your arguments. If you are not sure about something, you should not hesitate to contact the bank, but better to ask questions than to make accusations straight away. In your communication, try to avoid general statements such as ‘there is corruption in this project’ or ‘this project damages the environment’ – rather explain in more detail why you think there is corruption or in what way the project will damage the environment. If you have a lot of points to make, think carefully how to structure the your communication so that the most important points are clear at the beginning. There is a danger that important points can be lost in a mass of information.
If you are not satisfied with the bank’s response to your questions or comments, there are several people in the bank whose task it is to deal with complaints. The Secretary General is responsible for the implementation of the Public Information Policy, while the Chief Compliance Officer is responsible for issues related to fraud or corruption. The European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, is also able to investigate allegations of corruption related to the EBRD if a complaint to the Chief Compliance Officer does not bring adequate results.
If the EBRD Board of Directors goes ahead and approves a project which is not in compliance with the EBRD’s Environmental and Social Policy or the project-related provisions of the Public Information Policy, you can also submit an official complaint to the EBRD’s official Project Complaint Mechanism (PCM). This will not stop the project in itself, but it can result in recommendations about what should be done to rectify the problem. The PCM can undertake investigations to examine whether the bank has complied with its safeguard policies, or it can also act as a problem-solving mechanism, setting up mediation between affected people, the EBRD and the project company. This function is available in cases where affected people have tried to solve problems by contacting the company but where this has not been effective.
The following links provide contacts for the EBRD:
Civil society liason unit: firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmental and social department: email@example.com
Secretary General: QuattroE@ebrd.com
Chief Compliance Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Complaint Mechanism (PCM): email@example.com
As for civil society organisations, the main umbrella organisation working on the EBRD is Bankwatch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can put you in touch with local partners or other NGOs with sectoral specialisations.
In spite of the EBRD deciding not to move forward with the project and the alleged corruption and unsatisfactory resettlement issues at Kolubara, Serbia’s electricity company EPS and Italy’s Edison are still claiming that the project is going on.
Far from being a cheap source of energy, Slovenia’s scandal-ridden new 600 MW lignite unit has doubled in cost and looks set to run at a loss of EUR 50 million per year.