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Capital Markets

Calling the EIB to account

The EIB lends more than any other multilateral but receives far less scrutiny. Many people don't know if it is a bank or an EU institution. Critics say it is unsupervised, opaque and unwilling to deal with conflicts of interest and misdirected lending. Now, stung by a critical report prepared for the European Parliament, EIB president Philippe Maystadt is having to fight hard to defend the bank.

WHAT DO THE London Underground, a new bridge across the Panama Canal, the National Bank of Serbia and the Prince of Wales have in common? One way or another, they've all received financial support from the European Investment Bank or its sister organization and venture capital arm, the European Investment

Fund (EIF). The EIB has lent £900 million ($1.6 billion) to the two concessionaires on the three controversial public-private partnerships (PPPs) to upgrade London's underground rail network. At the end of March, it announced that it would lend $50 million to the Republic of Panama to help finance the Puente del Centenario bridge, which will be the second bridge to span the Panama Canal. National Bank of Serbia is one of the financial intermediaries that receive and then on-lend the EIB's global loans.

And Prince Charles? Well, the Prince's Trust, the charity that the heir to the British throne founded in 1976 to give training and support to young people in the UK, currently receives funding from the EIF under a two-year contract as part of the fund's Micro-Credit Guarantee Scheme.

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