In the framework of series of events on “Investing in the future: new perspectives for the regions” AER organised a conference on the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) on 30 November. The event was kindly hosted by Mr Filip Dierckx, Vice-Chairman of the Board, BNP Paribas Fortis and opened by AER President Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli. We were honoured to welcome the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and Mr Matthijs van Miltenburg, Member of the European Parliament.
The objective of the session was to provide regions with a comprehensive picture of the otherwise distant and complex EFSI.
MEP van Miltenburg, who referred to himself as a “constructive liberal”, used his intervention as an “early warning” to share some concerns on EFSI 2.0 in a spirit of making it a success. Active as a regional politician in AER before his election to the European Parliament, he recognises the role of regions as motors for jobs and growth creation and the importance of having right instruments, funds and grants to best achive these results. Among some of the concerns regarding EFSI is the question of whether it provides true leverage for the structural funds and the issue of transparency. “Tonight I hope to get answers on these points so that I can go back to the parliament and convince the sceptics to vote in favour of EFSI” concluded Mr van Miltenburg.
Vice-President Katainen addressed the regional and local leaders with his regional politician background; he shared 3 tips on what he would do if he were to implement EFSI in his region. (1) Make sure all banks in the region are informed that EFSI can be used for SME financing. (2) Use the resources of the european investment advisory hub. (3) Combining structural funds with EFSI financing for maximum leverage. Mr Katainen also provided success stories that show that the EFSI is not only for huge infrastructure projects but also for SMEs. He referred to a project in Ile-de-France (FR) to improve the energy efficiency of residential buildings; in this case, the EFSI provides long-term, low rate loans to apartment owners who will see their energy bill drop dramatically after the refurbishment. The Vice-President is also actively encouraging the Greek authorities to adopt a similar structure for entrepreneurs in the tourism sector that are currently unable to contract bank loans. Mr Katainen confirmed that EFSI would grow in the next 5 years. He concluded by addressing the transparency concern and confirmed that every project financed by EFSI is on the website.
Ms Florentine Hopmeier from DG ECFIN followed on the words of the Commissioner with a detailed presentation on “the investment plan for Europe”.
All information, pictures and presentation from the information session are available here.