MEDITERRANEAN. Sometimes described as the water bank, as its investments in this sector are increasing, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is developing a strategy consistent with the European Commission’s White Paper on adapting to climate change, published in 2009.
At the 6th World Water Forum, held in Marseille from 12th to 17th March 2012, EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive, while restating “the importance of water to prevent climate change, improve sanitation and living conditions and food safety…” he stressed “the importance of funding for water if we are to ensure access to this global public good by the greatest number of people, achieve the millennium goals, ensure decent living conditions which are beyond the reach of still too great a number of people on this planet”.
The institution practices what it preaches, as over the last five years, the EIB has lent over €16 bn for 141 projects.
Desalination for Gaza
Among these investments, one is considered iconic: the water desalination plant in Gaza, approved by the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM). For the people of Gaza, around 90-95% of the water supply is unfit for human consumption, according to a report from the World Bank. Added to this qualitative problem are very high water losses due to poor routing networks. In July 2011, the 11th Ecofin (meeting of European Ministers of the Economy and Finance, members of the EU) decided to give the EIB the mandate to coordinate fund-raising from potential donors for this project.
The project is to build two regional seawater desalination plants, one in the centre and the other in the south of the Gaza strip. The biggest one (100 million m3 capacity) requires an investment of €350 million and will provide drinking water for 1.6 million Gaza residents by 2020.
As a fundraising facilitator, the EIB will provide technical assistance financed from its own budget. It will oversee the bidding and selection of the Builder/Manager for the installation. "The EIB’s contribution is important for the credibility of the project in the eyes of potential European donors", says Philippe de Fontaine Vive.
In parallel, the EIB is involved with organisations such as the Marseille Center for Integration (CMI), which it co-founded with the World Bank. The CMI is the technical assistance platform for public policies in the south and eastern Mediterranean, and is especially involved in water issues.