ECA Watch applaudes European Ombudsman demand for greater EU ECA transparency on human rights and environmental impacts


ECA-watch applauds the European Ombudsman’s ruling on maladministration of the European Commission in checking compliance of European Export Credit Agencies with EU law

In a landmark ruling1, the European Ombudsman has found that the European Commission failed to fulfil its legal obligation to assess the compliance of EU-based official Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) with EU laws and human rights obligations.

The Ombudsman has recommended that changes be introduced to the EC’s reporting procedures. If implemented, the ruling could mean that EU-based ECAs – national bodies that give financial support to companies doing business overseas, including in ‘risky’ markets – are to be named and shamed where their activities fail to meet EU human rights and environmental obligations.

The Ombudsman’s decision, which has now been made public, responds to a complaint2 filed by the NGO coalition ECA-Watch in early 2016.

Under Regulation (EU) No 1233/2011, the European Commission (EC) is required to provide the EU parliament with an annual evaluation regarding the compliance of ECAs with Union objectives and obligations”.3 Such obligations include “consolidating democracy, respect for human rights and policy coherence for development, and the fight against climate change”.

ECA-Watch complained that the EC’s annual report to Parliament was wholly inadequate and constituted maladministration.4 No assessment of compliance by EU member state ECAs was included in the report.

In her decision, the Ombudsman acknowledges the blatant maladministration of the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission in its reporting on ECAs.

We applaud this decision which vindicates all our concerns and the long unheard demand for public accountability for European export credit agencies”, stated Antonio Tricarico (Re:Common/ECA-Watch, Italy). “The time has come that secretive bodies such as export credit agencies and their oversight institutions prove that they respect EU law and objectives when they support European exports and the generation of private profits in developing countries”.

The Berne Union5 is a global association of ECAs - standing for its 83 members from 73 countries around the world – that collectively underwrote around USD 2.3 trillion6 of new business in 2017. This sum amounts to over 14 percent of world trade. Of the Medium and Long-Term transactions that usually are covered by government backed ECAs, European ECAs are estimated to cover about 15 percent, which comes down to an amount of USD 80 billion for the year 20167. These numbers illustrate the enormous but typically hidden influence of ECAs on the world today.

In her initial assessment of the complaint, the Ombudsman found that the Commission’s methodology and procedures could be improved. She suggested that the Commission should engage in a dialogue with Member States and other stakeholders with a view to improving the template used by Member States in compiling the reports on export credit agencies which they are required to submit to the Commission each year. The Ombudsman also proposed that the Commission, for its part, should enhance the analysis and evaluation content of the annual reviews of export credit agencies which it submits to the European Parliament.

However, the Commission rejected the Ombudsman’s proposals on the grounds that their implementation would require an amendment to existing legislation.

The Ombudsman disagreed with the Commission’s position and has now made recommendations to the Commission in the same terms as those of her earlier proposals. In particular, the Ombudsman believes that the Commission’s annual review, which it sends to Parliament, should amount to more than a compilation of the content of the annual reports received from the Member States and that it should contain an informed and detailed evaluation of the performance of the export credit agencies, particularly, as regards respect for human rights and the environment.

The European Commission has three months to address the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

ECA-watch is determined to ensure that DG Trade and European ECAs comply with EU law. It is a matter of accountability towards the European Parliament and European citizens. We will finally see whether DG Trade has the honesty to admit the failures of EU export credit agencies and their role in undermining development, human rights and the environment, in particular in developing countries”.

Contact: Antonio Tricarico,

Re:Common, Italy

+39.328.84 85 448



2 Complaint number 212/2016/JN

4 Under Regulation 1233/2011, EU Member States must submit annual reports on their export credit programmes to the European Commission. Based on these activity reports, the Commission submits an annual review of the activities of export credit agencies to the European Parliament. This review includes an evaluation of export credit agencies’ compliance with the EU’s objectives and obligations including respect for human rights and the protection of the environment.

5The Berne Union is an international not-for-profit trade association, representing the global export credit and investment insurance industry.countries.

6 Berne Union 2017 Statistics:

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