Katainen: Juncker Plan to spur lending to Greek SMEs

EXCLUSIVE / The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) will use recapitalised Greek banks to channel EU investment funding for small and medium-sized enterprises, European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen told EURACTIV Greece.

Speaking at an investment conference on Wednesday (6 April), Katainen said Greece should expect good news in the near future about financing opportunities to revive its economy.

“I can promise you that in the next few days, you can hear the first positive news in Greece on how EFSI works and functions in your country,” the Commissioner said at the conference, hosted by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

He added that he would visit Greece in the next few weeks to raise awareness in the private sector.

“I am interested to discuss with the banks how they would increase SME financing with the support of EFSI,” Katainen told the conference, Europe as an Investment Destination.

“It’s very important for me personally, but also for the Commission as a whole, to make sure that EFSI, which is a risk financing institution, can function also in Greece.”

The SMEs can benefit

Katainen noted that there was a general misunderstanding of big, public infrastructure projects.

“Juncker Plan money can be used only if it is private investment or public-private partnership,” he said, adding that small and medium-sized enterprises can also benefit from it.

“They are in need of an intermediary bank,” he said. “This is is one of the issues I want to discuss with the Greek banks. Now that they have been recapitalised, they can start lending again with the support of EFSI.”

According to Katainen, Greece needs investment more than any other country. “I believe very strongly that the SME sector in Greece can be the engine of job creation in near future. And that is why I want to come to Greece in the next few weeks.”

First project to be approved

The first Greek project under the Juncker Plan is under way, with announcements expected early next week, EURACTIV Greece has learned.

In the meantime, the government in Athens is intensifying preparations for the submission of relevant proposals.

On 31 March, the Greek Economy Minister, George Stathakis, presented a list of 42 projects worth €5.6 billion which Athens has selected for funding under the Juncker Plan. Of these projects, 18 are purely private, with the remainder being public-private partnerships.

However, the Vice President of the opposition New Democracy party, Kostis Hatzidakis, insisted that the government delay the implementation of the programme, saying that 174 projects worth €41.5 billion had been selected during a first phase in 2014.

The European Investment Bank’s Athens office told EURACTIV that it is holding talks with the government on other projects that can be funded through the Juncker Plan.

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