The EIB established a Complaints Mechanism in 2008. The latest version of the mechanism’s policy were released in November 2018. 1
The Complaints Mechanism has two functions, which apply both to private and public sector EIB operations:
- Compliance review
The EIB decides which approach to follow depending on the case. Complainants may request the compliance review or problem-solving functions, or a combination of the two.
If complainants are not satisfied with the outcomes of the Complaints Mechanism proceeding, they may appeal to the european Ombudsman within two years (see below).
What are the issues that can be dealt with?
The EIB Statement of environmental and Social Principles and Standards were published in February 2009, following a public consultation process. 2 The goal is to “increase environmental and social benefits”, while “decreasing environmental and social costs”. These standards and principles are mostly based on eU legislation:
Environmental Standards in the EU and Enlargement Countries: the EIB requires that all projects that it finances comply at least with:
- Applicable national environmental law;
- Applicable eU environmental law (eU eIA Directive, the Nature Conservation Directives, Sector-specific Directives, “Cross-cutting” Directives);
- The principles and standards of relevant international environmental conventions incorporated into EU law.
- Environmental Standards in the Rest of the World: For projects in all other regions of EIB activity, the Bank requires that all projects comply with national legislation, including international conventions ratified by the host country, as well as eU standards.
- Social standards: The EIB restricts its financing to projects that respect human rights and comply with EIB social standards based on the principles of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the european Union and international good practices 3 . “Promoters that seek EIB financing outside the EU are required to adopt the social standards regarding involuntary resettlement, Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable groups, the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and occupational and community health and safety.” 4
- Cultural heritage is a broad concept referring to the promotion of human development through inter-cultural dialogue as an essential element in the achievement of balanced spatial development. Thus the Bank shall not finance projects threatening the integrity of sites that have a high level of protection for reasons of cultural heritage, as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for instance.
- Consultation, participation and disclosure standards, referring to EIB’s complaint system.
- Biological diversity.
- Climate change: promoters are encouraged to identify and manage climate change risks. Where risks are identified, the Bank requires the promoter to identify and apply adaptation measures to ensure the sustainability of the project. The Bank also recognises that adaptation is necessary and actively promotes adaptation projects.
The EIB environmental and Social Handbook 5 provides an operational translation of the policies and principles contained in the EIB environmental and Social Principles and Standards translating these in due diligence processes and practices. However in practice, the EIB delegates many responsibilities to the project developers, and as a result the principles and standards of the EIB remain largely criticised by NGOs for being nebulous and for not clearly stating what is required from the EIB to act in conformity with its standards and principles.
Who can file a complaint?
Any EIB stakeholders, individuals, organisations or corporations that have concerns about the EIB Group’s activities. Complainants do not need to prove that they are directly affected by an EIB decision, action or omission and are not required to identify the rules, regulations or policies in question. 6
Under what conditions? 7
- The EIB does not accept anonymous complaints, but it does treat all complaints confidentially unless that right has been expressly waived by the complainant.
- Any person may write in one of the 24 official languages of the European Union 8 and has the right to receive a reply in the same language.
- The complaint must concern any alleged maladministration in of the EIB Group in its decisions, actions or omissions. 9
- Complaints may be about access to information, the environmental and social impact of projects, procurement procedures, human resources issues, customer relations, etc. Complaints may also relate to any aspect of the planning, implementation or impact of EIB projects.
- Complaints must be filed within one year of acknowledgment of the matter to which they relate. Complaints concerning access to information must be filed within 20 working days of the date of the correspondence to which the complaint relates. 10
Process and outcome
The Complaints Mechanism will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 10 days.
If admissible, the complaint will either be addressed through a Standard Procedure or an extended Procedure. The Standard Procedure applies to all complaints, except those regarding environmental and social impacts, or governance aspects of EIB lending operations, which are handled through the extended Procedure. 12