Chapter News

Vice-President Katainen’s speech at the European Parliament plenary debate on the Regulation for a European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI)

Mr President, Honourable Members,

Let me first express my gratitude to this House, the European Parliament, and especially to Presidents Gualtieri and Arthuis, and of course the two co-rapporteurs Mr Bullman and Mr Fernandes, for your excellent support, for your excellent work on this very specific and important file. I also want to thank the other Rapporteurs who were working on this issue.

Mr President, I have to say that these people were very tough negotiators, but also very result-oriented negotiators. And it meant that in record time, we have managed to pass such a difficult and detailed piece of legislation. It was only possible because of the political will. Only because we share the same view: Europe needs investment and we have to deliver fast in order to create a better atmosphere and environment for private investors to invest in this continent.

As I said, these people were very tough negotiators and I even owe them my first sunrise in this building!

Ladies and gentlemen, the EFSI fund is a very important tool to address market failures. Market failures which partially originate from regulatory changes. We have regulated in good faith but it has had some negative impact which we are now ready to address.

Europe is not primarily lacking in liquidity: there is plenty of money in the private sector. But there are also plenty of reasons why this liquidity is not used for productive investment in the real economy.

One of the reasons is lack of risk financing, and that is exactly what EFSI is providing now. We want to provide risk financing for small and medium sized enterprises, for innovative companies, for start-ups, and at the same time to larger companies and public-private partnership projects in order to get productive investment and create jobs.

EFSI will not change the whole world. We also need other measures to get more investment. We need measures at an international level which means structural reforms in order to strengthen external competitiveness, and this is what our Member States are doing at the moment.

We also need other measures at the European level and that is exactly why the Commission will concentrate also on the third pillar of the Investment Plan, which means widening and deepening of the internal market.

So I would like to spread the same spirit of delivering fast to those areas. Why don’t we deliver as fast on the proposals which will harmonise the Digital Single Market or the Energy Market Union or Capital Markets Union? These proposals will have an even bigger impact on investment and job creation. According to the European Parliament’s own assessment, if we had a Digital Single Market, its impact on our economy would be something like €415 billion per year. That’s why we have to deliver as fast with these proposals as we did with EFSI.

The Commission is already working on the various documents and actions which are needed for implementation. In less than a month the Commission will notably be in a position to decide to extend the EU guarantee to the projects warehoused by the EIB and European Investment Fund, to appoint the members of the Steering Board alongside EIB, and to issue the Scoreboard under Delegated Act. The process for recruiting the members of the Investment Committee will be launched within two weeks, and we target to have them in place by September. In September, Honorable Members, you will have the occasion to hear and hopefully approve the candidates for the position of Managing Director and deputy Managing Director. We plan to have the European Investment Advisory Hub up and running after the summer, and the European Investment Project Portal by end of the year. So we are really delivering fast.

In this context, Mr President, and on behalf of the Commission, allow me to make the following statement on our assessment of one-off contributions within the context of the EFSI initiative for the purpose of implementing the Stability and Growth Pact:

“Without prejudice to the prerogatives of the Council in the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), one-off contributions by Member States, either by a Member State or by national promotional banks classified in the general government sector or acting on behalf of a Member State, into the EFSI or thematic or multi-country investment platforms established for the implementation of the Investment Plan, should in principle qualify as one-off measures, within the meaning of Article 5 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 and Article 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1467/97.”

Mr President, thank you very much.

Concluding remarks

Thank you very much colleagues for your opinion and advice. Now we are turning to the implementation phase.

It is very important that we all pass the message in our Member States, first of all to companies: if you have a plan to invest in something which is considered a higher risk project, or if there is a difficulty to get financing from purely financial sector, you can already today call the European Investment Bank and ask if they could help get financing. Nobody can guarantee this, but companies do not need any governmental approval – they can contact the EIB already today or tomorrow. There are lots of hard-working people in the EIB and they are willing to help the companies in their investment plans.

The second message which I hope we can all pass in our Member States is that we need a local intermediary for SME financing. I have visited 24 Member States since the beginning of the year and in every single country I have heard the same message: in most cases SMEs can get financing from the banks but venture capital is a very scarce resource. There is a lack of equity financing everywhere. So if countries are interested in improving SME financing, it’s your duty to establish a local intermediary. Of course it can also be a commercial bank, but in many cases national development banks or promotional banks can be an intermediary for SMEs.

And also private venture capital funds can apply for resources from EFSI and serve their clients. So this is the message I am constantly passing when visiting Member States and I hope everybody here does the same.

And a final comment: we strongly encourage Member States or the regions of Member States to establish national or regional – sometimes cross-border – investment platforms. It basically means special purposes vehicles to where public money can be put. National promotional banks finance those vehicles. Pension money can go there. Insurance companies can chip in. And they can apply for risk financing from EFSI and select the projects by themselves and finance those higher risk private sector or public-private partnership projects.

So implementation is very important. The EU cannot implement this more than we have done. We need SME intermediaries, we need to send the message to bigger companies that you can contact EIB already today, and we need national or regional investment platforms. This is the way that EFSI can help to create new jobs.

Thank you very much for your feedback.

Compliments of the EU Commission