Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

Opinion

Lessons learned for the EBRD

In recent weeks, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been in the news as rarely before, with a few important questions being raised about its accountability.

For the first time in its 20-year history of promoting democracy and market economies in central and eastern Europe, the bank has decided to apply some democratic principles to the selection of its own president: five candidates are vying for the job, which until now has been filled after behind-closed-doors negotiations between its largest EU shareholders.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The 2011 EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum was held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan (Photo: EBRD/Andy Lane)

In the meantime, EUobserver has brought to light allegations that EBRD money has ended up in the pockets of people associated closely with the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, raising some doubts over the verification mechanisms in place at the bank to ensure the public money it disburses actually benefits ordinary people in its theatre of operations.

Opening up the presidential selection process and dealing with allegations of having benefited the allies of a dictator has hopefully brought on some soul searching at the bank.

It would be a good time for the institution to take a look at itself - last year it turned 20 and this year it will expand its mandate from former Communist-controlled Europe to also promoting reform in post-Arab-Spring north African and Middle East countries.

An honest self-assessment is necessary because the bank's record in post-Communist countries is at best mixed and its new turf marks an increase in political responsibility.

There are a few areas to which it should pay particularly careful attention.

Firstly, while it is called a development bank, the EBRD still does not have solid means to measure the development impact of its operations. Too often, the transition record of a country is judged only in terms of the speed of privatisation and economic liberalisation reforms, failing to take properly into account human development and environmental goals. Before moving into a region where inequality has been one of the main drivers of revolutions, the bank must improve its vision of transition and development.

Secondly, the bank is mandated to promote sustainable development in its countries of operation, yet it continues to invest considerable amounts of public money into fossil fuels (for instance, in the new lignite unit at Sostanj in Slovenia) as well as into projects which affect protected natural areas (such as the Boskov Most and Ombla hydropower plants in Macedonia and Croatia). These kinds of investments must be eliminated.

Importantly, the bank also needs to re-evaluate its relationship with authoritarian regimes.

While the bank currently limits lending to countries such as Belarus and Turkmenistan, it continues to boast about its co-operation with the governments of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia, where democratic principles are clearly not being implemented.

The expansion of the bank's mandate to post-Arab-Spring countries was - ironically - announced last year at the EBRD's annual meeting in Kazakhstan, hosted by the country's authoritarian leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. The bank's involvement with such regimes must be reassessed to ensure that its lending does not end up in the pockets of corrupt elites.

Before it moves into north African and Middle East countries, the bank would be well-advised to conduct extensive consultations with local civil society groups - not just the business community and politicians - to assess whether its involvement is indeed wanted and if so, in what form.

Ionut Apostol is EBRD co-ordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network, a Czech-based NGO

EBRD funds pocketed by Lukashenko henchmen, politician says

Money from the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been distributed to individuals connected to Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko, according to a career politician in the regime.

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

UK, France should join German Saudi arms embargo

Rather than blame Germany, France and the UK should follow its lead and join other European states that have stood up for human rights, and help spare embattled Yemeni civilians.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us