Greek SME lending platform delays worry Katainen

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen [EBS]

European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investments and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen expressed concern about delays in setting up a Greek platform to provide funding for SMEs. EURACTIV Greece reports.

Katainen told EURACTIV this was a proposal made to the Greek government by the European Commission a few months ago and is necessary because Greek banks cannot increase funding to SMEs due to capital controls.

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“The idea is to use some of the Greek structural funds together with EFSI and private capital to form a capital base for the platform against which EFSI could additionally provide some long term loans which the platform is further distributing to Greek SMEs,” the Commissioner said.

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Katainen repeatedly stressed that only a small “chunk of Greek structural funds” would be used for the platform, while emphasising the value of such use as “if it’s [structural funds] used as a capital instead of direct grant it can leverage the impact significantly attracting more private capital from companies or even people in Greece”.

Asked by EURACTIV about the state of play of the platform, the Commissioner said he had not “heard anything for a long time now” from the Greek government, despite the fact that Deputy Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism Alexis Charitsis had initially expressed interest in the executive’s proposal.

“We have contacted the Greek authorities a few times on this. We explained to them how it would function and I am personally very interested in helping the Greek authorities put it in place because there’s a huge need for SMEs and SME financing in Greece as they are the backbone of the country’s economy.”

On Monday (20 March), Katainen attended the meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development (REGI) to exchange views with the MEPs on the proposal for the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to extend its duration and technically improve both the fund as well as the European Investment Advisory Hub.

During the meeting, the proposed combination of structural funds and the EFSI, which is included in Commission’s omnibus, was also discussed. Numerous MEPs strongly oppose the combination, fearing that in its current form, the proposal does not guarantee that the member state whose structural funds the money would be taken from would actually be the one benefiting from the money.

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