The European Investment Bank (EIB) has still not expended the funds it had committed to finance the work on the AVE tunnel through Barcelona because the required requisites have not been complied with. The Spanish authorities have given the Bank an adequate evaluation of the environmental impact but have still not supplied the certificate regarding the impact on the network of Natura 2000 protected sites.

This is how the EIB explains it in the statements presented to the European Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros. Diamandouros had asked the Bank to review the environmental impact evaluation carried out by the Spanish authorities on the planned AVE route between the stations of Santa and Sagrera in order to verify if it respected European Union regulations and, this not being the case, to reconsider the decision to finance the work. The Ombudsman demanded that the EIB not expend any financial help for this stretch of track until they had completed their analysis.

The EIB has planned to grant financing of 2.500 million Euros for the building of the high speed Madrid-Barcelona-Figueres train track. The remaining cost will be covered by European Union cohesion funds and the Spanish authorities.

The European Ombudsmanís recommendation comes as a result of the complaint presented in 2006 by a resident of Barcelona, who alleged that the railway segment projected through Barcelona could cause "serious environmental harm" to different neighbouring buildings, such as Gaudiís Sagrada Family or private ones.

The claimant also criticised the Spanish authorities for not having adequately evaluated the environmental impact of the project and for not having contemplated the possibility of establishing alternative routes. Due to all of the afore-mentioned, he asked that the EIB re-examine the project and reconsider the decision to finance it.

When required to do so by the European Ombudsman, the EIB explained that the environmental impact evaluation for that part of the project prepared by the Spanish authorities had been duly reviewed and was carried out in accordance with the Bankís criteria. During the course of his investigations, Diamandouros examined the existing documents and did not find any relating to the analysis by the EIB of the evaluation of the environmental impact of the tunnel.

On the basis of the complaints of the Ombudsman, the Bank ratified that it had been respecting European community regulations. Although it did admit that it hadnít committed to paper its analysis of the Spanish environmental impact evaluation and therefore prepared at that time a document explaining the status of the file. Likewise, the Bank revealed that it "had not yet expended the part of the loan corresponding to the stretch of the track object of the polemic because the conditions for paying it had not yet been complied with (given that the Natura 2000 certificates have still not been delivered)".

The European Ombudsman accepts the explanations of the EIB, as well as its commitment to adjust its internal procedures to improve its analysis of future environmental impact evaluations and has therefore decided to file this case.

Source: Europa Press

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