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EIB accepts Ombudsman's recommendation concerning Spanish high-speed train project

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has welcomed the European Investment Bank's (EIB) decision better to document its reviews of environmental impact assessments. This follows a complaint from a resident of Barcelona, who alleged that a planned high-speed railway line going through Barcelona, which is co-financed by the EIB, would cause serious environmental damage.

During his investigation, the Ombudsman did not find any record of a proper review by the EIB of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the tunnel project through Barcelona. The Bank stressed that the EIA had been carried out correctly. However, it accepted the Ombudsman's recommendation better to document its reviews of EIAs in the future in order to meet the highest standards of good administration.


In 1994, the Madrid-Barcelona-Perpignan-Montpellier axis was identified as one of the priority trans-European Network projects in the EU. In Spain, this project includes the development of the high-speed railway connection between Madrid and the French border. The EIB is to provide financing of 2 500 million EUR, which represents more than one quarter of the total cost. The remaining cost will be covered by the European Cohesion Fund and the Spanish authorities.

In January 2006, a Spanish citizen turned to the Ombudsman, arguing that the planned railway segment through the centre of Barcelona could cause serious environmental damage to surrounding buildings (e.g., Gaudí's "Sagrada Familia"). In his view, the EIB should re-examine the project and re-consider its decision to finance it.

In the course of his investigation of the complaint, the Ombudsman could not find any documentary evidence of the EIB's review of the environmental impact assessment carried out by the Spanish authorities. He called on the EIB to review and fully document the assessment before giving any financial assistance to this part of the project.

The EIB stressed that it had carried out a thorough review of the EIA. It added that its own procedures did not require formal documentation at the stage when the Ombudsman intervened in the case and that the Bank had not yet disbursed any funds. The Bank accepted, however, the Ombudsman's recommendation and agreed to adjust its rules and to improve the way it documents its review of future EIAs. The Ombudsman welcomed the positive attitude taken by the EIB. He also advised the Bank to consider using a comprehensive checklist of conditions with which an EIA must comply.

To read the Ombudsman's decision, please go to:

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