After a strenuous negotiating process, on Wednesday (24 June) MEPs validated the European Fund for Strategic Investments, taking the EU one step closer to the launch of the Juncker Investment Plan. EURACTIV France reports.
Members of the European Parliament adopted the legislation that will establish the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) on Wednesday 24 June. This fund will serve as the foundation upon which the €315 billion Juncker Plan will be built.
Presented by Jean-Claude Juncker in January this year, the investment plan is designed to stimulate €315 billion of investment in the European Union, and will primarily support innovative projects that would otherwise struggle to attract funding.
EFSI, the financial basis of the plan, will comprise €16 billion in guarantees from Brussels and €5 billion from the European Investment Bank. The Commission expects to leverage this €21 billion in public money to lift €315 billion of investment capital.
“We welcome Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals, which are a step in the right direction. Even if the member states were initially hesitant to join this fund, it will enable job creation and offers opportunities for SMEs,” German MEP and rapporteur Udo Bullman (S&D) said in the lead-up to the vote.
This vote marks the end of several months of heated debate between the European institutions over the objectives, governance and financing of the investment plan. The stakes are high, with EU officials and MEPs alike pinning their hopes for the re-launch of the European economy on the plan.
End of the power struggle
The adoption of the EFSI regulation also draws the power struggle between the Parliament and the European Commission to a close.
While support for the Juncker Plan is broadly shared, the consultation process revealed major disagreements over how it should be realised. One major criticism from MEPs concerned the reallotment of €6 billion already earmarked for the research programme Horizon 2020 (€2.7 billion) and the European Interconnection Mechanism (€3.3 billion), allocated to investments in transport and European networks.
For members of the European Parliament, this was an unacceptable contradiction. But they finally managed to negotiate an adjustment to the deal, to impact less heavily on the existing funds.
“Thanks to the two rapporteurs, who were formidable negotiators, we have achieved concrete results in record time. We are creating a better investment climate in Europe,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission Vice-President for Investment.
But the hard-won concessions have not silenced all the Juncker Plan’s critics. French Green MEP Pascal Durand said “I would support a real investment plan that tackles unemployment and climate change. The Juncker Plan is not an investment plan, it’s a communication plan.”
The European executive had hoped to leave the earmarking of the Juncker Plan open-ended in order to avoid rigidity and ensure that funds are used to benefit strategic projects. But this was also a source of discontent in the hemicycle.
“We have made gains on urban mobility and the thermal renovation of buildings, but clearly this Juncker Plan is still too weak. Even our proposal to allocate €5 billion to a European energy saving plan was judged ‘too political’,” French MEP Karima Delli said.