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Research project

The European Investment Bank at the origins of a European environmental policy

This project aims to assess the role of the European Investment Bank in shaping environmental policy from the early 1970s until 1993. It draws on the growing historical literature on EU institutions.

Climate action and environmental sustainability are now at the centre of the European Union’s (EU) strategy, whose overarching goal is to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. They are also the top priorities of the European Investment Bank’s (EIB), which aims to become the EU’s climate bank. Environmental policy has progressively taken centre stage in EU politics, especially since it gained treaty recognition with the Single European Act in 1986. The emergence of an environmental policy in the European Communities (EC), though, is to be dated back to the early 1970s, when the EC entered the rising global debate on environmental protection, that had been initiated by the scientific community and picked up by international organisations.

Drawing on the growing historical literature on EU institutions – such as the Commission, the Parliament and the Court of Justice – in the early stages of the European environmental policy, this research aims to assess the role of the EIB in this field from the early 1970s until 1993, when the Treaty of Maastricht came into force. The study will address the quantitative and qualitative impact of environmental issues on the EIB activity, by tracing the relevance of environmental protection in the Bank’s strategy and in specific projects, with a view to reconstructing the history of the emergence of the environment in the EC policy preferences.

The research will draw on archival sources held at the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) and at the EIB archives in Luxembourg, and it also envisages a series of oral history interviews with EIB officials.

Based at the EUI's Alcide De Gasperi Research Centre, this 12 month research project (2021/2022) is conducted by ADGRC Research Associate Jacopo Cellini, and is funded by the EIB Group's STAREBEI (STAges de REcherche BEI) programme


Image: Thermal power station in West Berlin, constructed with EIB funds as part of the1960 BEWAG project. Source: Werkfoto BEWAG Berlin - EIB / HAEU, BEI-2164.

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