Tuesday

11th Aug 2020

Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP

  • 'It is really a shame that our European Investment Bank is behaving in this way,' said Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Investment Bank's decision to keep secret the entire report on how it was misled into lending €400m to emissions-cheating Volkswagen is "not acceptable", according to Green MEP Heidi Hautala.

The Finnish deputy told EUobserver that she thought the whole report should be made public, but it was "outrageous" that the bank did not grant at least partial access to the document.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It is really a shame that our European Investment Bank is behaving in this way," she said.

Last week, the European Investment Bank (EIB) told EUobserver that it would not disclose a report written by anti-fraud office Olaf. The document details how German carmaker Volkswagen was able to acquire a €400m loan while keeping from the EIB that it was producing diesel cars with emissions cheating software.

Volkswagen Group had equipped around 8.5m cars with so-called defeat devices, which led to emissions on the road being much higher than in the required laboratory test.

Citizens of the EU in principle have the right to see EU documents, but sometimes there can be exceptions that allow an EU body to keep papers confidential – for example when releasing them could infringe on somebody's privacy or could harm relations with a third country.

However, there is also the possibility to redact documents and then grant partial access.

MEP Hautala is very sensitive to the possibility of partial access, because she fought for it in court two decades ago.

Hautala was among the first Finnish MEPs after that country's accession in 1995, and in 1996 she asked for documents to be released related to arms exports. The request was repeatedly refused by the Council of the EU – where national governments meet.

She went to the Court of Justice and finally won in 2001.

"The legal principle of partial access was established," she said in a phone interview.

Olivier Hoedeman, researcher and campaigner at the Corporate Europe Observatory, agreed with her.

"The EIB's decision to refuse disclosure of the documents is clearly at odds with the transparency rules of the Lisbon Treaty," he told this website in an email, referring to the treaty that has been the legal basis of the EU since 2007.

"EU institutions are obliged to work as openly as possible, especially towards citizens. And there is a clear public interest in EU citizens being fully informed about the scandalous EIB loan to Volkswagen," said Hoedeman.

"To heed the Lisbon Treaty's transparency obligations, the EIB should at the very least have allowed partial access to the documents," he added.

A second campaign group, Bankwatch, expressed similar concerns.

"This is very disappointing that despite the multi-billion euro public support that VW received in the recent years from the EIB, the company remains under the protective umbrella of the EU's institutions," said campaigner Anna Roggenbuck, who follows the EIB's activities.

She criticised the reasons the EIB gave for not publishing the document, which included that "internal discussions and consultations" about the bank should do in response to the Olaf report were still "ongoing".

"Disclosure [of the report] would therefore seriously undermine any final outcome on the bank's consideration of this file," wrote the bank's secretary general, Marjut Santoni.

Roggenbruck dismissed that argument.

"The EU's bank hides behind its sluggish internal investigation to not explain how it was possible the company was getting public money for the environmental improvements whereas it deceived its consumers and threaten the right to clean air for millions EU's citizens," she said.

MEPs also want to see Olaf report

The bank's refusal to publish the report was also a rejection of the European Parliament, which said in a resolution in February that the document should be made available. The demand to have the report published was introduced through an amendment by Hautala.

Last month, the parliament's budgetary control committee held a meeting with EIB representatives – behind closed doors – to discuss the report.

It will be up to the committee's coordinators for the political groups now to decide how to proceed, for example by asking to read the document in a secure reading room. The coordinators will meet this Wednesday (25 April).

EU investment bank rejects MEPs' plea for VW fraud report

European Investment Bank cites privacy and ongoing investigations as reasons for refusing to release an anti-fraud report into how it lent €400m to Volkswagen, while the company was rigging emission tests.

Investigation

EU probe into VW loan remains opaque

EU anti-fraud agency and European Investment Bank tight-lipped on report that said Volkswagen deceived the bank when acquiring a €400 million loan.

Investigation

Diesel cars still dirty, despite huge EU loans

The European Investment Bank lent billions to carmakers, in part to clean up diesel cars. But diesel cars are still dirty, prompting questions if the money was well spent.

Exclusive

EIB 'maladministration' verdict over VW fraud report

EUobserver should have been granted access to a fraud investigation into a €400m EU loan to Volkswagen Group (VW), and recommendations on how to avoid future misuse, the European Ombudsman has concluded.

Exclusive

EU bodies dodge questions on secret VW loan report

The European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have refused to answer detailed questions about the demand from the European Ombudsman to publish an Olaf report on a €400m EIB loan Volkswagen Group (VW) received through deception.

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. EU looks on as Belarus protests turn lethal
  2. EU virus-alert agency says new restrictions needed
  3. Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions
  4. Schrems privacy ruling risks EU's ties to digital world
  5. UK asks military to stop Channel migrants
  6. EU wary of violence in Belarus election
  7. Iraqis paid €2,000 each agree to leave Greece
  8. EU's most sustainable islands are Danish 'Sunshine Islands'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us