Transport infrastructure is a key part of a new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) announced this week by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
He was presenting his Investment Plan for Europe at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and he said that the €315 billion in investment over the next three years was designed “to get Europe growing again and get more people back to work”.
Juncker said, “If Europe invests more, Europe will be more prosperous and create more jobs – it’s as simple as that.
“The Investment Plan we are putting forward today in close partnership with the European Investment Bank (EIB) is an ambitious and new way of boosting investment without creating new debt. Now is the time to invest in our future, in key strategic areas for Europe, such as energy, transport, broadband, education, research and innovation.”
He added, “I am now counting on the European Parliament and on Member States to pitch in and do their part to get the new European Fund for Strategic Investments up and running as soon as possible. Europe needs a kick-start and today we are supplying the jump cables.”
He said he wanted to be clear that the money being put forward was in addition to existing funding, and comes on top of European Union programmes such as the Connecting Europe Facility.
He went on, “Perhaps most importantly, it comes on top of what Member States can do to help themselves. For Member States must also support the investment environment through a better use of public money and a greater commitment to structural reforms.”
EIB president Werner Hoyer said he would propose to the EIB’s governing bodies that they should endorse participation in the Investment Plan for Europe.
He said, “Effective action to stimulate increased investment across Europe is essential to restore economic growth, create jobs and enhance Europe’s competitiveness.
“Our challenge is to help address the market failure in risk-bearing capacity. We must bridge this investment gap and enable project promoters to attract private finance. We are committed to ensuring that our know-how and experience, in partnership with the Commission, help provide fresh stimulus for the real economy in Europe.”
FIEC (the European Construction Industry Federation) welcomed the creation of the EFSI.
Johan Willemen, FIEC president, said, “Even if we could argue about the amount of EU budget and EIB money initially mobilised in this fund, this is not the point today. The creation of this leverage instrument is very good news and a very good signal for EU and international private investors.”
He added, “Moreover, President Juncker is absolutely right to target long-term investment for key EU infrastructure projects on one hand, and financing for SMEs on the other. These two priorities are very high on FIEC’s agenda, as we have stated in our manifesto for action for the EU term 2014 to 2019.”
He added that in addition to these two priorities, projects in the field of energy efficiency should not be forgotten, as they represented an essential link to EU energy and climate policy.
“We also understand that any national contribution to the EFSI will not be counted in the calculation of public deficit, which is a very important incentive FIEC has always called for in order for the Member States to invest in European projects.”
Willemen admitted that some aspects of the plan still needed to be clarified, in particular an exact list of projects.
“However,” he said, “there is not a minute to lose now – actions should materialise as quickly as possible to ensure the credibility and success of this ambitious plan.”