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EU to consider cutting EBRD, EIB financing for Russia

Russia is the biggest recipient of project-financing by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, receiving €1.8 billion in investments last year

MOSCOW, July 03. /ITAR-TASS/. The EU countries are considering a halt on financing for projects in Russia as they seek to widen the scope of sanctions aimed at ending the conflict in Ukraine, two EU government officials said, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

EU governments are considering different scenarios to stop new project funding for Russia made by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), according to the two officials, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the plans.

Russia is the biggest recipient of project-financing by the London-based EBRD, receiving €1.8 billion in investments last year. Recent projects include a loan for pipeline valves; buying a minority stake in a property developer; and a loan to a supermarket chain. The EIB signed loans worth about $1.4 billion in Russia in 2013.

EU leaders said “they would take the necessary decisions, among which would be sanctions” to promote talks aimed at resolving the Ukraine conflict, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told the European parliament yesterday in Strasbourg, France. “We are doing this so these negotiations can be carried out.”

The EBRD, which invests about €9 billion a year from Mongolia to Morocco, has been at the center of a tussle over its collaboration with the Kremlin since Crimea joined Russia in March, with the US and some fellow G7 partners pressing for an examination of the bank’s role in Russia.

“As long as Russia continues to illegally occupy Ukraine, there can be no 'business as usual',” Canada’s government said in a statement at the EBRD’s annual meeting in Warsaw in May.


Majority Stake

While curtailing lending from the Brussels-based EIB would pose few problems since the bank is owned and controlled by the 28 EU governments, influencing EBRD policy is trickier as other countries, including Russia, have stakes in the bank, said one of the officials. Still, EU governments sit on the board that approves projects, giving them the necessary clout, the official said.

The US has a 10% stake in the EBRD, with each of the other G7 countries holding 8.5% each. That gives the US and Canada plus European G7 countries a majority of 52.5%, compared to Russia’s stake of 4.05%.

The EBRD, owned by 64 countries, the EU and the European Investment Bank, was created in 1991 to invest in former communist countries from the Balkans to central Asia to help them transform their economies. The bank expanded its geographical scope to include nascent democracies in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011.

“The European Investment Bank, as an EU Bank, acts in full accordance with the EU positions,” Dusan Ondrejicka, a spokesman at the Brussels-based EIB, said in an e-mail. The EBRD declined to comment on sanctions when contacted by phone.