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EU Investment Offensive: Commission and EIB launch new advisory service on financial instruments

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EIB copyOn 19 January, the European Commission, in partnership with the European Investment Bank (EIB), is launching fi-compass, a new advisory service on financial instruments for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds). This service is part of the 'one stop shop' advisory hub, to be launched as an important part of the EU Investment Plan.  
 
The work to deliver the Investment Plan is moving fast. Just 50 days after President Jean-Claude Juncker announced plans for an EU investment offensive, and the Commission has already launched a legislative proposal for the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) - to mobilise at least €315 billion in private and public investment across the European Union. With the launch of fi-compass, the Commission and EIB are now moving quickly to deliver on the second pillar of the Investment plan to make actual investment happen in the economy. This second pillar aims at enhancing technical assistance (with an advisory hub to provide all the necessary financial and technical support to public and private promoters) and providing transparency to investors. A transparent project pipeline of viable projects will be launched with the EIB later this year.  
 
This new fi-compass platform will be launched during a two-day conference attended by European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen responsible for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness, Regional Commissioner Policy Corina Creţu and EIB Vice President Wilhelm Molterer. They will join Member States and regions at this high-level conference to exchange experience and best practice on the design and use of these instruments.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Vice President Jyrki Katainen said: "There is money out there, but investors tell us that they need well-structured projects and access to clear information to reconnect investment finance with a pipeline of trusted projects. We want to fast track the work to set up a technical hub which will provide a one stop shop for advice and support for potential investors. The launch of fi-compass is an important step in the right direction."
 
Creţu said: "I welcome the launch of the fi-compass to pool our joint know-how in order to yield the best impact on the ground. Excellent examples serve as inspiration for other countries, in particular those struggling to draw EU funding and ensure its efficient use. I encourage member states to double the amount of investments channelled through financial instruments in the new programming period."
Molterer said: “The EIB with its technical, sectorial and country-specific expertise has a potential to encourage more widespread use of financial instruments. This expertise has been widely acknowledged by the Commission and the member states. We will use it to help recipients of EU funds target projects with high economic viability."
 
The fi-compass platform will be an important enabler for member states to make use of financial instruments under the ESI Funds, as Cohesion policy will play a central part in reaching the objectives of the Investment Plan, in terms of strategic and fruitful investments, job creation and sustainable growth.
 
The Investment Plan set as target to double the use of financial instruments in 2014-2020; by using them, the return of each euro invested in the member states will be increased. Fi-compass, set up by the European Commission and the EIB, is intended to better equip and strengthen the expertise of the managing authorities and stakeholders working with these financial instruments.
 
Background
Financial instruments include loans, guarantees, equity, venture capital and other risk-bearing instruments, possibly combined with interest rate subsidies or guarantee fee subsidies. They represent a resource-efficient way of using EU budget funds to enable investment in the economy. 
 
ESI Funds regulations for 2014-2020 have widened the scope of financial instruments to include all thematic objectives and all five European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). 
 
Commissioners for Regional Policy, Agriculture and Rural Development, Employment, Social Affairs Skills and Labour Mobility, Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the Vice President of the EIB and Chief Executive Officer of the European Investment Fund (EIF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a partnership for technical assistance and advisory services to support the use of financial instruments under the ESIF and under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI). 
 
The conference marks the first in a series of actions under the MoU, which will be a seven-year commitment between the Commission and the EIB. The fi-compass advisory platform will provide member states and their managing authorities as well as microcredit providers with support and learning opportunities for developing financial instruments. 
 
The fi-compass advisory platform will be complemented later in the year with the launch of a ‘multi-regional assistance’ initiative bringing together managing authorities and financial institutions. This initiative aims to support the potential use of financial instruments in investment priority areas that are shared by regions from at least two different member states.

European Parliament

European Parliament gives partial go-ahead to UK trade deal vote

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The European Parliament gave the go-ahead on Tuesday (13 April) for two key committees to vote this week on the EU-UK trade deal, but deferred a decision on whether the full parliament will give its assent later this month, writes Philip Blenkinsop.

The vote by parliament would be a final step in clearing the trade agreement struck between Britain and the European Union in December. Members of the parliament suspended the voting process in March in protest against British changes to arrangements on Northern Ireland.

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Agriculture

Agriculture: Short-term outlook report favourable for EU agricultural sectors

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The Commission has published the latest short-term outlook report for EU agricultural markets. This regular publication presents a general and sector-by-sector overview of the latest tendencies and further prospects for agri-food markets. The first 2021 edition concludes that the EU agricultural sector has shown resilience throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The sector performed relatively well thanks to increased retail sales and home consumption.

In addition, prospects are favourable with a dynamic global demand and the reopening of food services (restaurants, bars, cafés) expected once the vaccination campaign is sufficiently advanced. Recent trade developments will reduce uncertainties around the EU's trade relations, benefitting agricultural sectors. Among those developments, the US and the EU have agreed to temporarily suspend tariffs related to the civil aircraft disputes early March 2021. In addition, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement was concluded late 2020. Still, both sides will need time to adapt and provide necessary conditions for optimal trade exchanges. For full details concerning specific markets, see the news item and the report available online.

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EU

European Year of Rail: Hop on the Connecting Europe Express

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The Connecting Europe Express, one of the European Year of Rail 2021's most emblematic initiatives, is being presented today during the official European Year of Rail kick-off conference, organised in cooperation with the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU. The event takes place on the eve of an informal meeting of EU Transport Ministers focusing on different ways to accelerate a modal shift to rail. As of September, the Connecting Europe Express will travel across the EU and stop in most European capitals to promote the many benefits of rail - for passengers, freight and the environment.  The project will also raise awareness of the importance of financing sustainable infrastructure such as rail, and EU support for such investment, including through the recently agreed new Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), worth €33.7 billion, as part of the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027. The train's journey is possible thanks to good cooperation between European rail operators and infrastructure managers. Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “The Connecting Europe Express will be a real, tangible example of the power of rail to connect. At each of the almost 40 stops, events will bring together the rail sector at large, as well as civil society organisations, local and regional authorities, and the wider public, to discuss the benefits of rail, as well as what still has to be done so that rail can become the number one option for passengers and business.”

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