The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution founded in 1991. As a multilateral developmental investment bank, the EBRD uses investment as a tool to build market economies. Initially focused on the countries of the former Eastern Bloc it expanded to support development in more than 30 countries from Central Europe to Central Asia.
Similar to other multilateral development banks, the EBRD has members from all over the world (North America, Africa, Asia and Australia, see below), with the biggest shareholder being the United States, but only lends regionally in its countries of operations. Headquartered in London, the EBRD is owned by 69 countries and two EU institutions, 69th being India recently in July 2018. Despite its public sector shareholders, it invests in private enterprises, together with commercial partners.
The EBRD is not to be confused with the European Investment Bank (EIB), which is owned by EU member states and is used to support EU policy. EBRD is also distinct from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB).
The EBRD was founded in April 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union by representatives of 40 nations from 3 continents and two European institutions, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Economic Community (EEC, now European Union – EU), after reaching agreement on the bank’s charter, size, and distribution of power among shareholders.
The EBRD is unique among development banks in that it will not finance coal power plants due to their environmental impact. In 2018 42% of the Bank’s investment was in green economy, in support of the Paris climate goals.. Financing for the green economy has substantially increased from €2.8 billion in 2016 to €4.1 billion, which accounted for 43% of the total financing released in 2017. The EBRD had pledged, prior to 2015 Paris Agreement, to dedicate above 40 per cent of its financing to green investment by 2020. Considering the actual numbers, this goal has already been accomplished.
The EBRD was founded to support countries of the former Eastern Bloc in the process of establishing their private sectors. To that end, it offers “project financing” for banks, industries and businesses, for new ventures or existing companies. It works with publicly owned companies to support their privatization, as advocated by the WTO since the 1980s and “improvement of municipal services”.
The EBRD mandates to work only in countries that are “committed to democratic principles”. It promotes “environmentally sound and sustainable development”, and does not finance “defense-related activities, the tobacco industry, selected alcoholic products, substances banned by international law and stand-alone gambling facilities.”
Some NGOs have criticized the EBRD for financing projects they consider to be environmentally and socially harmful. Although it has increased its investments into energy efficiencyand sustainable energy in recent years, these NGOs consider the bank continues to diminish the impacts of green investments by financing carbon-intensive development such as coal, oil and gas production, transportation and generation, motorways, and airports. Among the contested projects are the Ombla power plant in Croatia, the Kumtor Gold Mine in Kyrgyzstan, and the Šoštanj lignite power plant in Slovenia.
The EBRD’s activities in the Balkans have attracted particular controversy and criticism, especially when they have centered on national parks or free-flowing rivers. This has often involved the actualized or proposed construction of hydroelectric dams and road infrastructure. Indeed, a 2017 report alleged deficiencies in monitoring and mitigation measures that had been designed to lessen the environmental impact of dam projects financed by the EBRD, while, in March 2018, outdoor clothing label Patagonia helped launch The Dam Truth campaign, which directly requests international banks including the EBRD to “stop investing in the destruction of Europe’s last wild rivers”.
In 2011, the EBRD approved a €65 million loan to ELEM, the Macedonian electricity utility, for a dam at Boskov Most. The Standing Committee of the Bern Conventionrequested immediate suspension of the project, with reference to the high biodiversity of the area and its importance as a core reproductive area for the Balkan lynx, one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. In January 2017, the bank cancelled the loan saying the “conditions for disbursement were not met.”
Again in North Macedonia, the EBRD was criticised by environmentalists after plans were announced to bisect National Park Galičica in the UNESCO Ohrid-Prespa Transboundary Biosphere Reserve with an A3 express road, which would have required certain zones of protection in the national park to be downgraded. Scientists from North Macedonia and across the world signed a declaration in opposition to this and other projects proposed for the Ohrid-Prespa region, a message that was reinforced by a Joint Reactive Monitoring Mission from the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and the IUCN, which requested total cancellation of proposed A3 road sections. This recommendation was underlined by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in Kraków. Eventually, in February 2018, the Republic of North Macedonia abandoned plans for the road, redirecting the EBRD’s funds to other infrastructure projects.
NGOs have criticized the EBRD on the lack of progress the EBRD makes in its main mission, the “transition towards open and democratic market economies.”
2014 sanctions against Russia
The EBRD announced on 23 July 2014 that it would suspend new investment projects in Russia, following an earlier declaration by the European Council. The European Council declaration was made in the context of the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine. As of 2014 Russia has been the biggest funding recipient of all countries. In 2013, the Russian Federation received 1.8 billion € for investments from the EBRD and 1 billion € from the EIB. Russia employed the funds to finance a variety of projects like pipeline valves, property acquisitions, and a loan to a hypermarket chain. Two Russian projects were awaiting funding from the EBRD: a 300 million € plan for promoting energy efficiency, and a $180 million loan to lease agricultural and forestry equipment. The bank stated that it will continue to manage on-going projects in Russia.
In 2015, the EBRD invested a record amount in the Central Asian region. The total investment in 2015 rose by 75% reaching €1,402.3 billion. Kazakhstan reported the largest total volumes of investment reaching 790 million euro in 2015.
The EBRD supports renewable energy projects in Kazakhstan. Specifically, The EBRD and the Green Climate Fund provide Kazakhstan with a US$ 16.7 million loan for the construction of a new 30MWp solar power plant in Zhangiz-tobe in the east of the country.
The following presidents have served the EBRD to date (as of 2017).
- Jacques Attali (1991–1993)
- Jacques de Larosière (1993–1998)
- Horst Köhler (1998–2000)
- Jean Lemierre (2000–2008)
- Thomas Mirow (2008–2012)
- Suma Chakrabarti (2012– present)
Recipient countries of investments
The following countries are recipients of funds: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
The EBRD publishes its tenders and contracts on its own website and in Development Business, a publication launched in 1978 by the United Nations with the World Bank and other development banks.
The following countries contribute in financing the EBRD: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic (receiving member until 2007-12-31), Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, India, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as the European Union and the European Investment Bank.
The EBRD offers loan and equity finance, guarantees, leasing facilities, trade finance, and professional development through support programs. Direct investments in equity range from 5% to 25% stakes and €5 million to €230 million. Smaller projects are financed both directly by the EBRD and through “financial intermediaries”. The EBRD website states it has helped finance over 1 million smaller projects by supporting local commercial banks, micro-business banks, equity funds and leasing facilities.
To be eligible for EBRD funding, “a project must be located in an EBRD country of operations, have strong commercial prospects, involve significant equity contributions in-cash or in-kind from the project sponsor, benefit the local economy and help develop the private sector and satisfy banking and environmental standards.”
The EBRD finances projects in sectors including agribusiness, energy efficiency, financial institutions, manufacturing, municipal infrastructure, also known as public works (which includes transport, schools, water supply, waste disposal, and pollution control services), natural resources, power and energy, property, telecommunications, tourism, transport, information technology.
Since its founding in 1991, so far only the Czech Republic has graduated from borrower to shareholder within EBRD, in 2007.
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Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder of TBIL.co STATX Fund.