11 September 2014 - Campaigners are urging Michael Noonan to help halt a dangerous slide towards secrecy at a giant bank of which Ireland is a part owner.
By drastically reducing its public information disclosure rules, the already secretive European Investment Bank (EIB) is proposing to make it far harder for European citizens to find out what it is up to, despite the fact it is a ‘public’ bank owned by EU countries.
Now campaigners including Christian Aid, Transparency International Ireland, and Debt and Development Coalition Ireland(DDCI), have written to the Department of Finance, urging it to speak out against the plans at the Bank’s next board meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, 16th September.
Minister Noonan has a seat on the Board of Governors which includes Ministers from all EU member states. John Moran, former secretary general at the Department of Finance sits on the Board of Directors.
'The Bank’s planned lurch towards secrecy is extraordinary,' said Sorley McCaughey, Head of Advocacy and Policy at Christian Aid. ‘At a time when the rest of the world has recognised that companies behave better when the public can find out what they’re doing, the Bank is proposing to conceal more than ever.
'Even more shocking is that this is being proposed by a bank that is effectively owned by us, the people of Europe. The European Parliament has made numerous calls on the EIB to act more transparently but its response is to move in the opposite direction.'
Nessa Ni Chasaide of DDCI said: 'We urge Michael Noonan to ensure Ireland uses next week’s Bank Board meeting to demand that it scrap these plans and instead pursues openness and honesty about its affairs. We hope the public interest will prevail over corporate interests.
'Mr Noonan has previously spoken out about the benefits of transparency, so we are hopeful that Ireland will do the right thing.'
The European Investment Bank last year lent Euros 71.7 billion to projects within and outside Europe; around 10 per cent of its funding goes to more than 150 countries outside the European Union, including in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as well as the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Bank-financed projects include motorways, pipelines and power stations.
During 2013 the European Investment Bank stepped up its lending activity in Ireland by more than a third and provided EUR 680 million in long-term low-cost loans to support key infrastructure and private sector investment across the country.
According to the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, the Bank is already lagging behind other multilateral organisations in terms of transparency. The Index rated it as ‘poor’ – one rung above the worst rating of ‘very poor’, as part of an assessment and ranking of 60 donor organisations.
This summer, the Bank launched a public consultation on proposals to change its ‘transparency’ policy in ways which would allow it to hide even more information than at present.
A Counter Balance briefing lists the most worrying changes: http://www.counter-balance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Policy-note_EIB-transparency-policy_Counter-Balance.pdf.
The Bank has invited comments on its proposals by 26th September 2014.
For more information please contact Sorley McCaughey at (353) 087 062 0062 or email email@example.com.
Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document ‘From Inspiration to Impact’ outlines how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org.
4. Follow Christian Aid Ireland on Twitter: http://twitter.com/christianaidirl.
5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit www.christianaid.ie.