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Vice-President Katainen’s opening remarks at the Competitiveness Council, 4 December 2014

Jyrki Katainen – Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness

I would like to thank the Minister and the Italian Presidency for chairing today. There are still a few weeks left of the Italian Presidency, but I would already like to thank you for the excellent cooperation and for putting investment on the agenda, not only of the Competitiveness Council but also of the Ecofin Council and the European Council. It has really encouraged Member States and the Commission to prepare our work.

I would like to briefly say a couple of words about the Investment Plan, which has recently been published.  We had a very fruitful, very encouraging discussion on the issue in today’s Council. Many ministers and Member States asked good questions, the right questions, and very obvious questions. Even though it has been published, there are still lots of things that must be refined and which need more legal work. And that’s why this was a very good venue to clarify some issues.

As you know, the plan has three angles. The first is the liquidity angle, meaning we will establish a new fund for strategic investment.

It functions in exactly the same way as the EIB, but the difference is that the new EFSI will take more risk. Why should it take more risk? Because we want to encourage the private sector to participate in investments, which are desperately needed, but which are perhaps located in a country that is considered riskier than the same investment in another country.

We also want to encourage the private sector to participate in investments that create something new – new technologies, for instance. Sometimes, when investing in new technologies you don’t exactly know what the outcome will be. It constitutes more risk. That’s why, in order to promote new technologies in Europe, we want to share the risk with the private sector. That is why the EFSI is needed.

Many SMEs are saying that they are lacking finance. Some SMEs or mid-caps, which would like to grow, cannot because of the lack of equity. Now the EFSI can provide that equity to SMEs. 

This is the basic difference between the existing EIB and EFSI. The EIB will continue its excellent work also in the future. It is lending around €60 billion to €70 billion a year. The new facility will lend around €63 billion. It is the original, fresh public lending capacity which the EIB can provide. If Member States or private stakeholders would like to inject more capital to the EFSI, then the lending capacity would increase.

Another part of the plan is the project pipeline. It has been very nice to hear and see that the private sector, especially investment banks,  have been interested in this part of the plan because, if we had – which is our aim – a transparent project pipeline in which there are well-structured, reliable and viable infrastructure projects, it is easier for private money to come in.

The third part is deepening the Single Market. There are various areas in which we don’t really have a Single Market. Companies providing digital content or digital production services have a fantastic single market in the United States. But they don’t have one in Europe. This is because the Single Market was created before we had digital content. We now have to speed up our work in Europe in order to create a better Single Market for digital content as well as for the energy sector – which is very national at the moment.

My colleague, Commissioner Bieńkowska will explain more on what she is planning to do, but also on the capital markets side there is much work to be done.

All in all, I wanted to explain to ministers that the Investment Plan is not a one-off stimulus measure. It will stimulate the economy, especially if we implement it efficiently. It is like a process whereby we want to change Europe permanently in a positive direction.

I also said to ministers that this will not solve all our economic problems. This will not change the whole world. But if implemented efficiently, it will change Europe in a positive direction.

Thank you.

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