As the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development celebrates twenty years of market and democracy promotion in central and eastern Europe, Bankwatch evaluates the institution's activities since its inception and concludes the bank needs to move swiftly and genuinely towards prioritizing social justice and lowering carbon intensity of economies, if it wants to bring real benefits to the region.
On the occasion of the EBRD's 20th anniversary, Bankwatch Mail is complemented by a range of personal reflections from people both within and beyond central and eastern Europe, people who have worked directly on issues related to the EBRD, or who have studied the bank's impacts.
The hydropower plant, planned to be constructed underground in a karst area near Dubrovnik, brings with it specific hydrological and ecological impacts, particularly on cave-dwelling species. Consequently, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is of utmost importance, but has been held 11 years before the beginning of procurement. Opportunities for the public to comment on and influence the project's decision making process have thus been highly questionable.
The oil and gas-fired thermo-power plant in Vlora, Albania - in a tourism-dependent city and only 100 metres from the protected Narta lagoon - was financed by the EBRD, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank.
After a slew of problems, including lack of proper public consultation, the plant is not actually working - two years after it was supposed to have been completed – and it is increasingly doubtful whether it will start to produce electricity any time soon.
After 5 years of project implementation, the EBRD admits: "The investment with ArcelorMittal Kryviy Rih (AMKR) ... has achieved the objectives related to increased capacity utilisation, corporate restructuring and market expansion. Conversely, it fell short of its energy efficiency objectives; and saw an unsatisfactory environmental performance."
The democratic revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East have not quite spread it to the authoritarian regimes of Central Asia. Nevertheless nervous reactions among leaders in these countries have proven another weakness of the proposed Nabucco pipeline project, in that the stable gas supplies promised by the project under the capacious term "energy security" are much less "secure" than previously expected.
In 2010 the EBRD approved a senior loan of up to RUB 650 million (around EUR 16 million) for the New Forwarding Company (Novaya perevozochnaya kompaniya - NPK), the main operating subsidiary of Globaltrans Investment Plc, the top private railway transportation company in Russia.
When trying to find out who owns GlobalTrans Investment, the trail stops in the Bahamas. What does this case mean for the EBRD's policy on offshore jurisdictions and transparency more generally?
The Turkish company Georgian Urban Energy (GUE) has requested a USD 44 million EBRD loan for the Paravani HPP, an 87 MW plant using a 14 km derivation tunnel in order to divert water from the Paravani river to the Mtkvari river. Bankwatch member group Green Alternative has deep concerns regarding the project's potential negative impacts as well as its overall justification.
The Polish energy market is dominated by coal, but two thirds of the installed coal capacity is older than 30 years. The EBRD could play a crucial role in the restructuring of this market by providing financial assistance to energy efficiency projects and renewable energy and at the same time refraining from further fossil fuel investments.
Update: The EBRD confirmed during later meetings that it will not finance any coal project in Poland.
In 2010, the EBRD approved a EUR 100 million loan for the Sostanj lignite power plant unit 6 (TES 6) project with a further EUR 100 million syndicated to commercial banks. A recent report on the management of the project has important implications for the EBRD's involvement and raises questions about the project appraisal process that led the EBRD to approve the project.
The EBRD is and has been involved in a number of high voltage electricity transmission lines in Ukraine that eventually would lay the technical groundwork to export nuclear and coal-based electricity to the EU.
In the Ukrainian electricity transmission field, the EBRD should focus its efforts on utilising the massive potential to increase the reliability and efficiency of Ukraine’s energy system through the modernisation of existing grid, especially low-voltage local grid below 110kV where power losses now are two times higher than average in the EU.
In November 2010 the EBRD, together with the European Union, announced its involvement in the EUR 1.2 billion Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) safety upgrade project for Ukraine. While safety upgrades at first appear a positive initiative, this project makes sense only in the context of NPP lifetime extensions, otherwise there is no reason to finance costly upgrades for facilities that will anyway close in a couple of years. And though the project promoter clearly links these safety upgrades with lifetime extensions, the EBRD is reticent to do so.
On April 14 2011 the Minister of Economy of Slovenia, presented a report on the management of the Sostanj TES 6 project to the Government of Slovenia. In the report many shortcomings of the project are highlighted, which led the Government to state that it will only support a state guarantee for the EIB loan amounting to EUR 440 million if the economic efficiency of the project can be improved.
An opaque web of offshore companies and oligarchs behind the controversial EUR 1.5 billion first section of the Moscow–St. Petersburg motorway public-private partnership provides new grounds for the Russian government to re-examine the controversial project, according to this new research by CEE Bankwatch Network and the Movement to Defend Khimki Forest.
As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and against the backdrop of the threat from Fukushima's nuclear facilities, our study reveals that the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are indirectly supporting lifetime extensions of old Ukrainian nuclear reactors as a means to secure 'cheap' Ukrainian electricity exports to the EU Member States.