From the widespread contamination of “forever chemicals” across Europe to the inner workings of an investment scam that plundered billions, IJ4EU-funded investigations tell essential stories that transcend borders. 

As dozens of grantees from the latest IJ4EU funding round gear up to publish collaborative projects in the public interest, some teams have already made headlines.

For the 2022/23 programme cycle, the IJ4EU fund has awarded €1.23 million to 47 cross-border teams under two grant schemes: the Investigation Support Scheme and the Freelancer Support Scheme.

Here are 10 of the first investigations to get off the blocks. Stay tuned for more.

The Forever Pollution Project

Chemists call them PFAS, a class of 4,000-plus chemicals used in commercial products for decades. Others call them “forever chemicals” due to the near impossibility of getting rid of them once they enter the environment.

This months-long investigation by 18 European newsrooms reveals that dangerous PFAS chemicals contaminate more than 17,000 sites across the continent, with alarming consequences for public health. 

The journalists gathered 100 datasets and filed dozens of freedom-of-information requests to build a unique map of PFAS contamination in Europe. The investigation made front-page news across the continent and triggered countless follow-up reports.

The Migration Managers

Never heard of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development? Well, you have now. Operating far from public scrutiny, the little-known organisation is helping to shape Europe’s migration policy in controversial ways.

The Vienna-based centre operates for the European Commission under a funding scheme called “indirect management”, whereby EU work is outsourced to external agencies. Critics argue that by farming out this type of work, the European Commission seeks to avoid scrutiny and accountability for its actions.

Journalists in Spain, Italy, Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina team up with researchers from a German transparency watchdog to document ICMPD activities in a number of countries. Their findings provide fodder for an entire episode of the German satirical news show ZDF Magazin Royale.

The Investment Trap

This investigation uncovers a “cyber trading” scam that has defrauded billions of euros from people all over Europe.

Freelance journalists in Kosovo, Albania and Austria delve into the shadowy world of fake online trading platforms and the Balkan call centres that lure unsuspecting investors to part with their savings.

The bogus trading platforms are often registered in tax havens and the stolen funds are distributed via a complex money-laundering network set up across Europe.

Along with in-depth magazine and newspaper articles, the investigation resulted in a five-part podcast series (in German).

Perenco Files

Welcome to the “toxic” world of a little-known European oil and gas giant. Perenco, a privately owned Anglo-French firm, operates in 14 countries and specialises in buying up assets that other oil majors want to get rid of due to ageing facilities and ebbing reserves.

Free from transparency rules that affect other oil giants, Perenco makes its billions far from the media spotlight and public scrutiny. Until now.

This series by Investigate Europe and its French media partner Disclose sheds light on the company’s international footprint, including alleged pollution, structures in tax havens and political ties.

The Jungle

Two freelance journalists team up to document the dire conditions endured by migrants and refugees trapped in Europe’s last primaeval forest along the Polish-Belarusian border.

Unlike the 1.5 million or so Ukrainians welcomed by Poland since Russia’s invasion, these asylum seekers are mainly from the Middle East and Africa. And unlike their Ukrainian counterparts, they face harsh obstacles, including walls, violent pushbacks and the criminalisation of humanitarian aid.

Along with the human and environmental impact of Poland’s no-holds-barred response to the Belarus border crisis, the investigation reveals the futility of Poland’s eastern wall in keeping people out. Stunning photojournalism brings the story to life.

Special Services: The Belarus Migration Business

On a related topic, this investigation led by the Belarusian Investigative Center probes who is profiting from bringing illegal migrants to the EU via Belarus. The answer: people close to the country’s security forces.

Teaming up with investigative organisations in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, the journalists infiltrate a well-oiled scheme to smuggle migrants into Europe via Belarus — lately with the endorsement of Russia. 

It’s big business for the organisers, who can make up to $10 million a month, the investigation reveals.

The Bankers of Irregular Migration

A lack of legal migration routes to Europe is a boon to intermediaries operating in the informal “hawala” financial system that serves as both a bank for smugglers and as an insurer for migrants, this investigation finds.

Dating back to the days of the Silk Road, hawala is an informal system for transferring money that is based on interpersonal trust and makes cash tough to track.

This investigation, carried out over the past year by a team of six journalists, exposes how tightening migration policies have caused migrants and asylum seekers to fall prey to unscrupulous smugglers. It also shows that many migrants turn to hawala as the only way to mitigate the risk of being scammed.

The Dream of the Clean Car

Demand for lithium, known as the “white gold” of the energy transition, has exploded due to the car industry’s push for electric vehicles. As the price of lithium carbonate surges, so too do fears of the environmental impact of lithium production — especially in South America, where the alkali metal is extracted from salt lakes. 

German carmaker BMW says it sources lithium for batteries from a “particularly sustainable” producer, U.S.-based Livent Corp, which extracts it from a salt lake in Argentina. However, this investigation reveals that Livent’s process is not as sustainable as claimed.

The team has produced a 46-minute documentary and promises more stories to come on the environmental impacts of Europe’s booming demand for lithium.

Cashing in on Carbon Credits

Three decades of European policy designed to reward big polluters for fighting climate change have done little to protect the environment even as billions of euros have flowed into shareholders’ pockets, this investigation reveals.

Described by some as a “right to pollute”, the EU’s system of free allowances provides carbon credits to encourage the most polluting industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The idea was that these rights to pollute would decrease over time.

In reality, companies have received quotas in quantities far higher than the CO₂ they emitted, giving them surpluses they can resell on the carbon market. The result is that companies and their shareholders are getting richer while their CO₂ emissions have hardly fallen over the past decade.


This investigation delves into alleged abuses linked to the supply of West African palm oil and rubber to European markets by Belgian company Siat, one of the biggest global providers of both commodities.

In published articles and an upcoming documentary, the cross-border team exposes the problem of land grabbing in Africa through the stories of two communities — in Ivory Coast and Ghana, respectively — whose lands, cultivated by local farmers under customary land tenure, were taken over by Siat.