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Volkswagen's emissions scandal and the European Investment Bank

Photo by stillwellmike - CC BY-SA 2.0

In September 2015, news broke that Volkswagen had installed defeat-devices in its diesel cars to rig emission tests, resulting in some models emitting pollutants up to 14 less in emission tests than what they did on the street.

Shortly after, Bankwatch uncovered that the European Investment Bank, the world's largest public lender, supported the world's largest car producer with 19 loans worth EUR 4.3 billion between 2005 and 2015.

Fourteen of the 19 loans were intended for improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. Out of them five were classified under the bank's so-called ‘climate action’ lending.

Between 2005 and 2015, the EIB lent European automakers EUR 20.4 billion. Cars of seven of these companies showed considerably higher emissions in more stringent tests.
The underlying data for this graph can be seen and downloaded here. The source data is available on the EIB's website.



EIB reluctant to disclose information

Since September, Bankwatch is requesting the disclosure of information on the EIB's loans to Volkswagen, in particular such that helps assess the bank's performance in making sure its funds were not being misused.

In January 2016, the EIB's president Werner Hoyer admitted that the bank cannot rule out that one of the loans to Volkswagen in 2009 has been used to finance a cheating device to rig emission tests.

Yet, by March 2016, the EIB has not been very forthcoming and the disclosed information is still not satisfactory.

Warnings from the past

Already in 2009, when billions of EIB funds were disbursed to European carmakers (including VW) in response to the financial crisis, Bankwatch warned that the EIB must ensure that the stated environmental goals of the loans, namely cutting carbon emissions from cars, are indeed implemented.

First tranche of EIB car "crisis" loans requires scrutiny, warn Bankwatch and Greenpeace
Press release | March 12, 2009

Trying to squeeze blood out of a stone

Bankwatch first contacted the European Investment Bank (EIB) in late September 2015 with a detailed request (pdf) to disclose information on 12 of its loans to the VW Group.

Almost two months later, and after failing to meet an extended deadline, the bank sent only finance contracts related to two outstanding VW loans. Much of these documents had been redacted by the EIB.

In view of the profound public interest in the case, the highly insufficient responses were particularly disconcerting. Bankwatch therefore asked the bank's Board of Directors in a letter (pdf) to urge the bank's management to disclose the relevant information.

On December 18, 2015, three weeks after a final confirmatory application, the last available resort within the EIB's transparency policy, the bank provided redacted versions of all twelve finance contracts signed with the VW group and of the completion reports provided by VW to the EIB at the closure of each project. (See all documents in this Google drive folder.)



Many files were still heavily redacted, making it difficult to interpret the information. For two loans Bankwatch therefore filed a second confirmatory application on January 25.