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by Alain Lipietz | 4 June 2008

Rapport pour avis de la commission du Commerce international à la commission du budget
Sur l’extension à l’Asie Centrale de la guarantie apportée par l’UE aux prêts de la BEI
Première version du rapporteur
Mon rapport propose de ne pas étendre cette garantie aux pays (comme l’Ouzbékistan) sous le coup de sanctions de l’Union européenne pour violation des droits de l’Homme.
Draft opinion of the Committee on International Trade
Alain Lipietz

SHORT JUSTIFICATION

Community guarantees to the EIB against losses under loans and guarantees for projects outside the Community are an important instrument to support European economic and trade policy objectives at the global level. A large proportion of EIB loans support European firms’ overseas investments, which in turn contribute to increased trade. The European Parliament has been monitoring the overall activities of the EIB since 1999 through Annual Reports drawn up by the ECON Committee which have created an excellent spirit of cooperation with the Bank. On the specific topic of Community Guarantees to the EIB, the European Parliament has expressed a detailed opinion in November 2006 (A6-0394).

The Commission proposal for a Council decision on the eligibility of Central Asian for the Community guarantee scheme to the EIB extends the list of eligible countries in Council Decision 2006/1016/EC to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, making available up to 1 Mrd Euro in EIB loan contracts. This follows a request of the European Parliament in its opinion on the Community Guarantees to the EIB (A6-2006/0394). It is in line with the EU strategy for a new partnership with Central Asia, adopted by the European Council in its meeting of 21/22 June 2007, which states that the "European Investment Bank (EIB) should play an important role in financing projects of interest to the EU in Central Asia.’’

The fact that EIB loans are largely or even fully guaranteed by the Community’s Loan Guarantee Fund (LGF) allows the Bank to offer very attractive conditions, because it does not need to charge the normal risk premium. This subsidisation produces credit costs up to 1-2 percent below the market standard. Accordingly, a high demand for EIB credits in the region of Central Asia can be expected.

The draftsperson considers that the Community guarantee to the EIB for lending in Central Asia deserves the support of the European Parliament, as a means of employing public money to advance EU policy goals, on condition that these goals are indeed promoted coherently. At present, this is not assured in the Commission proposal for a Council decision:

- in four out of the five countries of Central Asia, the human rights situation is far below the standards laid down by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in particular systematically violate fundamental rights and lack any democratic progress. The European Parliament on 20 February 2008 confirmed its support for the sanctions against Uzbekistan imposed by the EU. It further stressed that Turkmenistan must make progress in key human rights and democracy areas in order for the EU to be able to move ahead with the Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related matters, such as investment (2007/2102(INI)). Accordingly, it calls for the differentiation in the EU’s policy regarding its approach to the countries of the region to be based in particular on the human rights situation in each country. Instead, the Commission proposal does not differentiate criteria for EIB lending among the Central Asia countries;

- the European Parliament on 20 February 2008 also called on both the Council and the Commission "to ensure that human rights issues should carry equal weight with the EU’s robust approach to energy, security and trade." Instead, the Commission proposes a strong focus on energy supply;

- the "gift" of lower interest rates should, in principle, accrue only to EIB loans for projects that have, as a priority, a high and measurable value in advancing EU policy objectives, since the budget of the guarantee fund is limited. The list of objectives for Community guaranteed EIB loans to the Central Asia countries does not consistently feature EU policy objectives and favours large scale projects, especially in the energy supply/transport sector. This is to the detriment of the EU policy objective of diversification of energy sources and the Kyoto requirements and should be rectified. It most probably also undermine the European Parliament’s call for the "discontinuation of public support, via export credit agencies and public investment banks, for fossil fuel projects", and its demand that "the European Investment Bank take account of the climate change implications of the funded projects when making or guaranteeing loans and impose a moratorium on funding until sufficient data are available" (A6-0409/2007)

- in addition, the strong focus on energy supply and transport for EIB lending operations in Central Asia neglects evidence by the World Bank and other financial institutions that, as a rule, extractive industry projects, under the condition of a lack of good governance principles in resource-rich but poor countries, lead to increasing poverty. The energy supply focus therefore undermines the EU Strategy for a new partnership with Central Asia of June 2007, in which poverty eradication is described as the main priority of European Community bilateral assistance for the period 2007-2013. Given that all Central Asia countries qualify for assistance delivered under the DCI, your draftsman is of the opinion that EIB loans must be consistent with the European Consensus on Development and its overarching objectives, i.e. poverty eradication and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);

It must be noted that the Commission proposes Art. 181a of the EU Treaty as the legal basis for the Council decision on the eligibility of Central Asian countries under Council Decision 2006/1016/EC granting a Community guarantee to the EIB against losses under loans and guarantees for projects outside the Community. With regard to this Council Decision 2006/1016/EC the European Parliament contested the presentation of the proposal under article 181a of the Treaty and proposed a double legal base, Art.181a together with Art. 179 (development cooperation, under codecision procedure), since many countries eligible according to Annex 1 are developing countries under the OECD list. The case is pending in the Court of Justice.

Your draftsman is not amending the legal base of the decision, conferring this issue to the rapporteur in the lead committee.



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