International Financial Institutions: labour standards in performance standards and opportunities for unions: focus on European Investment Bank

The PERC, in cooperation with the FGTB, organized a workshop “International Financial Institutions: labour standards in performance standards and opportunities for unions: focus on European Investment Bank” on 4 and 5 November in Brussels.

The workshop aimed at raising awareness of trade union leaders and specialists about environment and social standards of the European Investment Bank and its respective complaint mechanisms, studying experiences of the application of the complaint mechanisms in practice and to initiate trade union contribution to the process of revision of such mechanisms in 2015. Some forty participants from NIS, SEE and Turkey took part in the workshop.

Professor Bruno Serghi from the Messina University introduced the role and place of the EIB in the EU and beyond its borders. The EIB is the largest supranational borrower and lender in the world. It was created in 1958 by the Treaty of Rome, is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 30 local offices. It is the financing institution of the EU-28 (financing over 400 projects per year in > 160 countries). It operates not-for-profit and doesn’t burden the EU budget, raising funds on the capital market (benefiting from the highest possible credit rating, i.e., AAA). EIB’s investment projects (to finance public and private investment) contribute to European integration, balanced development, the economic and social cohesion, and the development an economy based on knowledge and innovation.

About 10% of its lending goes to projects outside the EU-28 to support the EU policy beyond its borders. The EIB prioritises key projects: (1) climate change mitigation and adaptation (e.g. renewable energy, energy efficiency, urban transport and other projects that reduce CO2 emissions); (2) development of social and economic infrastructures, including water and sanitation; (3) local private sector development, in particular of SMEs.

Oliver Cusworth from the EIB Brussels office presented the structure of the EIB, its project requirements and operations. He introduced EIB project priorities in Eastern Partnership and pre-Accession countries, explained the EIB transparency policies and practices of civil society engagement in consultations and monitoring processes.

EIB social and environment specialist Eleni Kyoru presented its due diligence principles, it social and environment handbook and in particular standards related to labour and health and safety. Roberto Rando from the EIB complaint mechanism section presented the work of the complaint mechanism, relations with the European Ombudsman and different methods the EIB was using to improve the situation in the situations when a complaint had been found grounded.

Xavier Sol from the Brussels-based Counterbalance initiative informed about civil society experiences with the complaint mechanism, underlined challenges and areas for improvement and presented several specific cases, including from the region, when civil society organisations were contesting operations co-financed by the EIB.

In open and constructive discussion the participants exchanged views about some challenges existing in the region that can affect the projects, including high risk of corruption, high unemployment and harsh behavior of business interlinked with power circles and the low level of social dialog and respect to the rule of law. Several proposals for trade union engagement – as alternative source of information to identify areas of environment and social risks – were discussed. It was agreed to continue practical cooperation and exchange of information on different opportunities and possible challenges related to EIB operations in SEE, NIS and Turkey.

Xavier Sol
Eleni Kyrou
Oliver Cusworth
Roberto Rando
Bruno Serghi