CoR delegation at EIB shares concerns on Juncker's EUR 300 bn plan

Michel Lebrun  and
Wilhelm Molterer
A delegation of the Committee of the Regions' Budget Commission, led by CoR President Michel Lebrun and BUDG chair Bas Verkerk (NL/ALDE), met with European Investment Bank's top-management to discuss opportunities linked to the EUR 300bn EU investment package, as well as the new financial instruments designed by EIB to match 2014-2020 structural and investment funds (ESIF).

Welcoming the CoR delegation at the Luxembourg headquarters, Vice-President Wilhelm Molterer confirmed that the EIB will play a key role in delivering the 2015-2017 investment package, worth EUR 300bn, which will be launched by the European Commission in a few weeks. To the concerns expressed by CoR President Lebrun on the lack of clarity on the package financial coverage, the EIB Vice-President confirmed the current involvement of the European financial institution in the screening of the investments needs and the key sectors to allocate the money and confirmed that the plan will be funded with "additional resources". According to EIB senior management, the big challenge is to find suitable projects for private investment rather than providing additional capital through new loans and guarantees to be operated by the EIB". 

The study visit saw more than 10 EIB senior managers exchanging views with CoR members about credit facilities and products specifically designed for local and regional authorities, in a close integration with Europe 2020 goals. In the EU regulation for the 2014-2020 phase, the scope of EIB financial instruments has been widened, and expectations are growing for a strong increase in the use of tools such as framework and programme loans, which support regional and local authorities in co-financing cohesion policy investment plans. In 2007-2013 framework loans accounted for EUR 4.6bn while signed programme loans were worth EUR 30bn. These figures could double over the next seven years.

The project bonds initiative – with five signed bonds and a big growth potential over the coming year – and the European Investment Fund operation, including seed loans, co-investment fund and guarantee instrument, also raised the interest of attending regional and local leaders.

At the end of the meeting several CoR members shared their worries about the current EUR 50m minimum threshold for the EIB support as smaller local and regional authorities and projects may risk being left out from EIB support. EIB managers stressed the role of framework loans in allowing smaller LRAs/projects to be eligible, and acknowledged that some projects still struggle to get access to finance. As a result, they agreed, the priority of the Juncker package should also be to solve accessibility problems.

CoR's BUDG Commission chair Mr Verkerk, emphasised the importance of local and regional authorities for being competitive in the global economy. However, he also pointed to administrative capacity issues and encouraged his fellow CoR members to think big, and to be bold.