The 9 March Alcide de Gasperi Centre (ADG) conference ‘The European Investment Bank and Environmental Protection: The history of the European Investment Bank's (EIB) environmental strategy from the 1970s to the 1990s’ brought together academics and practitioners for a thoughtful discussion not only of the research at hand, but also more general reflections on informed policy-making and the role of archives in historical legacy.
The multi-faceted conversation was possible thanks to the participation and comments of diverse but related actors from across the EUI, the Archives, and the EIB: ADG Research Fellow Jacopo Cellini, ADG Directors Dieter Schlenker and Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol, Corinna Unger, head of the EUI History Department and co-coordinator with Joanne Scott of the EUI’s research cluster on environmental challenges and climate change governance, Laura Iozzelli, research fellow under the EIB Chair on Climate Policy and International Carbon Markets at the School of Transnational Governance, Henry von Blumenthal, Deputy Dean of the EIB Institute, Zuzana Kaparova, EIB Environmental Specialist, and Birgit Olsen, Information Manager for the EIB; and Andrea Clerici, Head of the EIB Rome office, as well as HAEU archivists and EUI researchers interested in European integration history.
According to Jacopo Cellini, author of the paper under discussion, the event ‘provided a good overview of what’s being done and what can be achieved by our local EUI research network concerning the history of financial actors’ involvement in environmental protection, and research-informed policymaking related to the environment’.
Making history: from primary sources to historical narrative
Jacopo started his historical research on EIB environmental policy in 2021 with support from an EIB Group ‘STAREBEI’ grant. He has since joined a research project funded by the EUI’s research council on ‘European Banks and Environmental Protection, 1970s-1990s’. Jacopo based his research not only on primary documents from EIB holdings at the HAEU and the EIB, but also on work and conversations with researchers and archivists at the EIB in Luxembourg and on oral history interviews he conducted with current and retired members of the Bank’s staff.
Jacopo’s study is a vivid illustration to present-day stakeholders of how archival holdings can be used to inform our understanding of the past. Thus, his presentation and the ensuing discussion went beyond historiographical concerns to reflections on the challenges and priorities for archival depositors from the European institutions. The conversation continued over the course of the afternoon during a visit to the Historical Archives, where participants could see, with their own eyes, how the documents and photographs preserved there contribute to transparency and illustrate the history of the European Union.