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Procedure : 2011/0283(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0067/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0067/2012

Debates :

PV 18/04/2012 - 18
CRE 18/04/2012 - 18

Votes :

PV 19/04/2012 - 6.3
CRE 19/04/2012 - 6.3
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0133

Debates
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

18. Risk sharing instruments for Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Danuta Maria Hübner, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 as regards certain provisions relating to risk sharing instruments for Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability [COM(2011)0655 – C7-0350/2011 – 2011/0283(COD)] (A7-0067/2012).

 
  
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  Danuta Maria Hübner, rapporteur. – Mr President, Commissioner, dear colleagues, over the last two and a half years, I have started most of my statements in this House by saying that Europe needs growth, and once again I say it today.

Austerity packages in those economies most strongly affected by the crisis have not generated growth because of a dysfunctional banking sector and high risk-aversion. Therefore, there is an urgent need to unlock EIB loans and guarantees to enable the private sector to become involved in important growth and job-creating projects, especially those cofinanced by the EU cohesion policy. In this context, mobilising all the potential resources that can become growth triggers requires special measures, and this is what this legislative proposal is about. It provides for the establishment of a risk sharing instrument with a view to facilitating the absorption of the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund resources allocated to Member States covered by EU and IMF financial assistance programmes.

In these countries – and primarily in Greece – there are infrastructure and productive investment projects whose implementation has been blocked by the lack of private cofinancing. This is particularly the case with transport and environmental infrastructure projects which generate revenue from the collection of charges from users and whose value cannot be covered by grants financed through the cohesion policy. This is also the case with those productive investments for which the maximum allowable public aid is capped by State aid rules. These projects are at risk of not being implemented because private sector investors and banks either lack the liquidity to lend to projects and project promoters or are no longer willing to bear the risks of investing in the present circumstances.

The measure also foresees the possibility of financing other projects which are not cofinanced by cohesion policy programmes but which contribute to the achievement of the objectives of cohesion policy and bring important added value to the Union’s strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The proposed measure will be implemented by the Commission at the request of the Member State concerned in agreement with the EIB or with another public or private institution with a public mission. The Member State concerned should address a formal request to the Commission identifying the projects and the funding needs to be covered by the risk sharing instrument. The Commission will assess the request and will set up and manage the facility jointly with the EIB.

The regulation provides a detailed description of the procedure to be applied for the establishment and implementation of a risk sharing instrument. We have also specified the budget ceiling for the risk sharing instrument, and we have specified that there are no contingent liabilities for the Union budget or the Member State concerned beyond the financial allocations dedicated to the risk sharing instrument. The Commission shall ensure that only projects for which the EIB or another interested institution with a public mission has taken a favourable financing decision are eligible for financing through this instrument.

I hope that, following tomorrow’s vote in the European Parliament, the Council will adopt this regulation promptly, allowing for joint signature by the European Parliament and the Council in May, as well as publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and entry into force on the same day.

 
  
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  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, in June 2011, the European Council encouraged the Commission and the EIB to enhance the synergies between loan programmes for Greece and EU funds. The aim was to increase Greece’s capacity to absorb EU funds and to stimulate growth and employment creation.

In July 2011, the Heads of State or Government of the euro area and the EU institutions extended the scope of that political mandate. They invited the Commission and the EIB to enhance the synergies between loan programmes and EU funds in all Member States benefiting from EU or International Monetary Fund assistance.

In January 2012, the European Council invited the Council, the Commission and the EIB to consider possible options for enhancing EIB action to support growth, including the possibility of using the EU budget to leverage the EIB Group’s financing capacity.

In October 2011, the Commission adopted a proposal to amend Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006. The objective was to enable the use of available allocations under programmes cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund to back up guarantees and loans granted by the EIB or by other national or international bodies with a public mission offering adequate guarantees – the so-called ‘risk sharing instrument’.

The target Member States are those experiencing serious difficulties with respect to financial stability and which have been granted financial assistance according to one of the existing mechanisms. The measure is intended to address the serious obstacles faced by some Member States, particularly Greece, in raising the private financing needed to implement infrastructure and productive investment projects, which can only be part-financed by public funds. This is particularly the case for infrastructure projects which generate net revenues, the value of which cannot be covered by grants financed through cohesion policy instruments. It is also the case for productive investments, for which the maximum allowable public aid is capped by State aid rules.

The recent approval of an increased rate of cofinancing by the EU to 95% is part of the EU response to the crisis. However, it is not enough, in particular, for the revenue-generating projects, since the investment costs covered by revenues are not eligible for EU cofinancing. The measure proposed is an exception to the normal framework in which cohesion policy is implemented and is justified by the circumstances imposed by the crisis. Since the publication of the Commission’s proposal, there has been intense debate with the Council and Parliament.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Committee on Regional Policy and, in particular, its chair, Ms Hübner, for her support in this process. I would also like to thank the members of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and of the Committee on Budgetary Control and their rapporteurs for their support.

The adoption tomorrow of the Hübner report will open the way to securing strategic investment projects financed by cohesion policy without increasing the EU budget allocated to it and without having a significant impact on the EU budget. It will facilitate the implementation of important transport and environment infrastructure, as well as other economic infrastructure projects which will provide a much-needed boost to economic activity and job creation in Greece.

In Greece alone, the effective implementation of important infrastructure projects in the transport sector will, it is estimated, create some 50 000 new jobs. Other Member States most affected by the current financial and economic crises may also benefit from this legislative proposal.

In recent years, cohesion policy has been mobilised several times to contribute to the changing needs of Member States under severe crisis conditions. Excellent interinstitutional cooperation made it possible to shape tailor-made crisis assistance, which was available within a short time. I therefore call on the Members of the European Parliament to give their support to this legislative proposal.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Budgetary Control. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the proposal to amend Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 could make it possible to transfer to the direct management of the Commission funds allocated to Member States experiencing financial difficulties and at risk of losing part of their resources allocated to programmes cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to the Cohesion Fund.

The extension of this proposal to all Member States, which I proposed in my capacity as rapporteur for the Committee on Budgetary Control, would be strategically relevant for countries like Italy, which, while not in the same debt situation as Greece or Portugal, also have to combat the crisis.

The picture is therefore clear, and while there have not been cutbacks in funding, the planning is extremely inadequate and does not allow positive results to be achieved. The possibility the amendment involves would therefore not already be to transfer funds, or lose resources, but an act of humility that would allow some countries to organise their expenditure better and orient it towards objectives and aims in line with the community’s needs.

The financial crises have affected every country in Europe, and restricting this opportunity to a few countries only would be a serious mistake.

 
  
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  Georgios Papastamkos, on behalf of the PPE Group.(EL) Mr President, I consider the proposal to create risk sharing instruments to support infrastructure projects and productive investments made by the rapporteur, Ms Hübner, to be a very positive proposal. Indeed, there is an urgent need to create conditions of growth at this crucial juncture, in an economic climate in which fiscal cuts are also having a significant impact on Greek public investments, while the lack of liquidity and access to financing is making it equally difficult to forge public-private partnerships.

Critical economic indicators in Greece have deteriorated drastically, despite unprecedented sacrifices by Greek society. I refer, primarily, to the rocketing unemployment rate, which is now close to 50% among young people. I trust that both the Commission and the European Investment Bank will ensure that the terms, such as the leverage ratio and eligible investments, are such that the best possible use can be made of this instrument, with exponential benefits for the real economy.

Finally, apart from the fiscal consolidation required, I believe that we also urgently – I repeat urgently – need an integrated plan for a creative leap forward out of the vicious circle of austerity and recession.

 
  
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  Mojca Kleva, on behalf of the S&D Group. (SL) Mr President, the implementation of programmes financed by the Structural Funds requires the cooperation of public and private investors. In Member States that have been seriously affected by the financial and economic crisis, the downgrading of credit ratings for both public and private debt mean financing from private individuals has also stopped. The measure proposed is therefore an exception to the normal cohesion policy framework, justified only by the exceptional circumstances imposed by the crisis. European risk sharing instruments will enable both the European Commission and the European Investment Bank to cover part of the risk associated with lending to banks. By adopting this measure, we hope to maintain the involvement of private investors and overcome significant obstacles in the implementation of cohesion policy programmes that have already been approved, which are aimed at developing European regions and countries, and which will therefore not impose any additional requirements on the European budget.

The purpose of this proposal for a regulation is therefore to ensure the continuation of the implementation of the programmes cofinanced by the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund. An example of this is Greece, which has already planned projects using this mechanism and is simply waiting for our go-ahead. It is important to point out that the initiative to propose the measure in question came from the Member States most affected. Therefore, we must, as the people’s elected representatives, give consideration to such a proposal and enable its quick, effective and transparent implementation. In this way, the European Parliament can directly contribute to tackling the effects of the crisis in those Member States that currently need us the most.

 
  
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  Ramona Nicole Mănescu, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(RO) Mr President, any amendment to a regulation designed to facilitate the rapid implementation of programmes under the cohesion policy will certainly have an immediate, tangible impact on the economies of the Member States hardest hit by the crisis. This is why it is of paramount importance for us to adopt tomorrow the report on risk sharing instruments for Member States experiencing serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability, so as to offer them the financial support they need to continue their projects and the process of economic recovery. In addition, it is vitally important for the Council also to adopt it as soon as possible. Although this is a highly technical report, the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe supports the current compromise, since we regard it as a balanced proposal which takes into account the problems that have been identified during the debates.

In addition, it is also extremely important for the European Investment Bank to adopt a very strong position in using this financial instrument which the countries involved in a financial assistance programme will have the chance to use in the next 18 months. We give our support to the actual instrument, but we must ensure that funding will not be granted to projects which do not make economic sense. I think that it is particularly important for us to carry out a cost-benefit analysis on the projects being funded so as to ensure that they are targeted at increasing the number of jobs and, by extension, the competitiveness of Member States.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Schroedter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, the risk sharing instruments proposed by the Commission is welcomed by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. In technical terms, this proposal is based on the Greens’ proposal for project bonds. In our view, investment in the real economy is the sure way for Greece to emerge from the crisis. We could happily vote in favour of such a financial instrument. The amendments to the regulation in no way guarantee the quality of these investments, however, as they do not provide for sustainable development or stable employment. In the final analysis, these amendments to the regulation will simply result in the further expansion of the existing motorway network. We want to see such incorrect plans revised and believe that the investments underwritten by all our citizens should be truly forward-looking and sustainable. Therefore, we are unable to vote in favour of this proposal in its current form.

 
  
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  Oldřich Vlasák, on behalf of the ECR Group. (CS) Mr President, we are debating measures today through which the Commission will try to address the effects of the high levels of debt of some Member States, in which there are problems with liquidity and with the actual provision of loans.

It is clearly important for the European economy to facilitate the approval of loans, whether from the European Investment Bank (EIB) or other financial institutions. I firmly believe, however, that too much interference in the lending market is not a good thing. Every bank, including the EIB, must assess credit risk according to its own current criteria and set interest rates accordingly, so that it can cover all the costs for money lent. If applicants only obtain loans in future because we are now pouring cohesion policy funds into guarantees, then that is not ideal, in my opinion. We may address the current problem of low liquidity, but we will soon have to address the problem of unpaid loans, and that is no way to help the economy.

I would therefore like to make a call for the greatest possible emphasis to be placed in future on boosting the effectiveness of the cohesion policy, as opposed to ‘mere’ financial absorption.

 
  
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  John Bufton, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, the creation of a risk sharing instrument to enable the full take-up of regional funds through private-matched funding is not objectionable in its purposes. But the fact that the Commission has had to resort to the creation of such a facility to underwrite loans from the private sector further demonstrates that the approach to the financial crisis in the euro area is simply not working.

This is yet another example of the Commission seeking to equip themselves with a legal tool to fight a particular battle while the war still rages because the bigger issues are not being addressed.

Ardent pursuance of homogenised policy making reflecting European ideology places a stranglehold on growth and is responsible for the ongoing euro crisis. The risk sharing instrument enables the Commission to blindly pursue European ideals through regional funding that may or may not reflect the best interests of the Member State concerned, while continuing to live in denial, since it is actually the absurdity of the whole European project that is creating this mess in the first place.

 
  
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  Ewald Stadler (NI).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this regulation will ultimately make cohesion policy part of the euro rescue package policy. That is something we reject. This is nothing less than a kind of debt sharing, intended as a sort of mini-Euro bond under the fig leaf of cohesion policy. I agree with Ms Hübner when she says that the austerity packages have not had the desired effect. That could have been predicted from the outset, however. Austerity packages, particularly in Greece, have actually weakened the domestic economy, if not actually destroyed it in some cases. It is evident that the policies of the European Union in relation to rescuing the euro in Greece are slowly reaching impossible levels.

Giving this regulation the title of ‘Risk sharing instruments for Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability’ is a first-class example of euphemism and spin. We are now all experiencing difficulties – all of us who have accepted shared responsibility and who will continue to bear this shared responsibility thanks to the ESM. We are dealing with countries that are, in fact, on the verge of bankruptcy. This mini-instrument is intended as a way of avoiding state bankruptcy. This is beyond ridiculous. It will not help Greece in any way. What we have here is a series of placebos that are being distributed on a piecemeal basis.

The financing of these infrastructural projects and operational programmes is already putting too much strain on a country like Greece to fund itself, not to mention the cofinancing, which will cost one-and-a-half times as much. How can this work? I can assure you it will not work. This is a socialist approach that is doomed to failure. We must recognise that Greece can only return to economic growth if it is granted competitive advantages. The most meaningful competitive advantage it could have at present would be that deriving from having its own currency, enabling it to control its own economy once again and to make the most of the associated competitive advantages. That is precisely what is not happening. Hence, this policy is fundamentally wrong.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the economic and financial crisis which is persisting across the whole EU is affecting the macro-economic stability of many Member States and their access to finance. The intention of the proposal for creating a risk sharing instrument is to enhance the synergies between loan programmes and EU funds in the countries receiving assistance from the EU or IMF: Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Romania. The aim is to find solutions for viable revenue-generating projects. Examples of this would be obtaining the necessary private funding for infrastructure projects which generate net revenues, such as toll motorways, or productive investments for which the maximum State aid allowed is capped. The solution being proposed is, of course, an exception, but it is a concrete measure during this crisis for sharing the risks with the European Investment Bank and other financial institutions so as to maintain the involvement of private investors and overcome the major obstacles faced in implementing cohesion policy programmes. Deploying this mechanism offers an additional solution for using the Structural and Cohesion Funds which might not be absorbed by the end of the current 2007-2013 programming period. Applying a limit to it of 10% from these funds is an excellent idea which must be adopted. I congratulate the rapporteur for the outstanding job she has done in handling this report.

 
  
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  Georgios Stavrakakis (S&D).(EL) Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteur and chair of the Committee on Regional Development, Ms Hübner, for her methodical work and exceptional report, and my colleague, Ms Kleva, for her excellent report. I do not intend to refer to individual points in the report, which have been analysed in detail by previous speakers.

However, I should like to emphasise that, following previous changes, cohesion policy is again making the biggest contribution to efforts to bring about economic recovery and growth and create jobs. Tens of thousands of new jobs are expected to be created in Greece alone; at the same time, the Greek section of works on Priority Project 7 of the Trans-European Transport Network will be successfully completed. Of course, in order to unblock the major regional development projects that have ground to a halt in countries affected by the crisis and for the best possible use to be made of these specific resources, leverage needs to be at least two or three times greater than the amount earmarked under cohesion policy funds.

 
  
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  Nikos Chrysogelos (Verts/ALE).(EL) Mr President, this sort of risk sharing instrument is certainly the right idea, provided that it aims to bring about changes that make the economy more viable and more compatible with ecological objectives. That is why the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance proposed that this instrument should help to strengthen investments in trains, urban railways, energy saving and renewable energy sources.

However, it would appear that the compromise between the Commission, the Greek Government and the European Investment Bank is going to result in yet another agreement that basically relates to the completion of motorway projects which are not economically viable and not ecologically necessary today. When there is a major fiscal crisis, motorway traffic drops and many economists maintain that these projects are no longer economically viable. If I am not mistaken, the European Investment Bank has said as much.

Therefore, we would like this instrument to be used to support the green economy. As the Commissioner said this morning that the green economy has huge potential and could create 20 million jobs in Europe, why should such an instrument not be used to create jobs in Greece?

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE).(PT) Mr President, as Ms Hübner – whom I would take this opportunity to congratulate on her excellent work – rightly stressed in her report, this is an exceptional measure, justified by the exceptional times we live in. The global financial crisis and the unprecedented economic recession mean there is a need to take measures to counteract the negative effects of the crisis and impact thereof, which are being widely felt in the real economy and the labour market, as well as by the public.

The crisis has increased the pressure on national financial resources, so it is more important now than ever to ensure sound cohesion policy, as an instrument with a multiplying effect on the economy. I would therefore congratulate the European Commission on its proposal, which is intended to increase even further funding under the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund. This will contribute to clearing the way for mobilising the private finance necessary for making productive investments, which can only be partially financed by public funds. With this risk sharing mechanism, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank will start making capital contributions to cover losses resulting from loans and guarantees to the Member States in receipt of financial assistance, such as Portugal.

I hope now, in all honesty, that this measure will be just one of the many needed to stimulate recovery and growth in those Member States, thereby also enhancing the competitiveness and cohesion of the European Union itself.

 
  
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  Joachim Zeller (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this proposal concerning risk sharing instruments will certainly not succeed in preventing state bankruptcy in cases where such an eventuality is almost inevitable. Nonetheless, it is better to do something than to simply sit on our hands. Sometimes, unusual situations call for unusual measures.

The budgetary and debt crisis in some countries has meant, unusually, that several important cohesion and structural policy projects and measures cannot be implemented because the banking sector is unable to provide backing and private investors are no longer available. I see the current proposal for establishing risk sharing instruments for the continued financing of structural policy projects as an extraordinary measure. The cohesion and structural policies available to the countries that wish to avail themselves of these risk sharing instruments can be used to secure those projects that are already ongoing.

I am very grateful to the rapporteur, Ms Hübner, for making such a valuable contribution in tightening up the details of the Commission’s proposal, once again making it clear when and how these instruments are to be used. I also believe that these risk sharing instruments should only apply in the current situation and should not provide a precedent for the future subsidy period.

 
  
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  Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (PPE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the technical nature of this report must not be allowed to obscure the urgency of adopting it.

Given the seriousness of the crisis and the scarcity of financing, Greece is now being suffocated by delays in major infrastructure projects. These major projects are essential to the country’s economic development and to restoring growth there. The Greek State is facing the threat of heavy fines – estimated by some to amount to more than EUR 1 billion – from its contractors as a result of the delays, and also from the European Union for not respecting a number of directives, environmental directives in particular. On top of this, Greece is experiencing difficulties in making use of its Structural Funds, despite the efforts being made by the Union to accelerate the absorption of these, in particular, by increasing European cofinancing by 10%.

Thus, we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation where the States receiving financial assistance not only cannot spend the money available, but are also at risk of being fined by those who are trying to help them.

I would therefore like to pay tribute to the work of the rapporteur, Danuta Hübner. She has managed to convince the Council to accept the Commission’s proposal which aims at using the Structural Funds as a guarantee fund to facilitate financing for infrastructure projects and, thus, to attract private investors.

I unreservedly support this report, but I would like to go further. The European Union has been accused, wrongly, of being merely a tool for implementing rigour and austerity. On the contrary, this report shows that Europe can be effective if it uses all the tools available to it to restore growth, to help improve the situation of the public finances, and to support investment in future projects.

 
  
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  Iliana Ivanova (PPE). (BG) Mr President, there is no doubt that the crisis has seriously damaged both public finances and the banking sector in EU countries. Financial institutions’ liquidity problems have limited access to funding for major infrastructure projects. Naturally, these problems have also affected the Structural Fund and Cohesion Fund programmes.

I support the Commission in creating a new risk sharing instrument because it could become a serious catalyst for improving liquidity and ensuring access to funding for the projects under these programmes. I must emphasise, however, that the existing difficulties are not confined to just the six countries that have already received such aid.

Why should the countries with good fiscal discipline, which are making serious efforts, not have access to such tools? At the same time, some of these Member States are among the countries with the lowest per capita income. If we restrict the new tools only to countries with problematic public finances, we will send the wrong signal because the liquidity problem affects all Member States.

I urge the Commission to make such tools accessible to all countries that wish to use them. This will improve the overall implementation of the projects under the programmes and result in economic growth and job creation throughout the European Union.

 
  
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  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, the report we are debating this evening and the proposal by the European Commission constitute an important, intelligent response to efforts to address the economic and fiscal crisis, especially in countries which have been particularly severely hit, such as my country, Greece. I therefore welcome the proposal on this instrument, this risk sharing instrument, which gives countries the potential to utilise EU funds and obtain capital from the European Investment Bank or other organisations to finance projects being implemented with contributions from the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund.

It will give the private sector the potential to contribute to wealth production and job creation, especially – I repeat – in countries such as Greece, in which public investments are being slashed. Greece has expressed an interest in this instrument, mainly for motorway franchises, and I believe that this will be a good opportunity to kick-start the economy, which is vital if my country is to get back on the road to recovery and growth.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the lack of confidence and reluctance of investors from both the private and financial sectors have meant that there is a good chance of a number of strategic projects not being carried out in some Member States. The main projects affected are those involving the infrastructure, and the analyses carried out show that the financial resources required to develop the European Union’s infrastructure during the period 2010-2030 amount to more than EUR 1 500 billion. In view of this figure, we can imagine that considerable efforts are required to have an efficient European transport network, and a variety of funding sources are needed to achieve this, from both the public and private sectors.

A risk sharing instrument will provide a tangible solution to these problems that we are facing and will allow us to continue implementing European programmes, with additional funds being injected into the economy by the EIB and other financial institutions. Funds earmarked for cofinancing projects implemented with the support of the Structural and Cohesion Funds will have an instant impact on the economy, making a considerable contribution to job growth.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, I understand the Commission’s efforts to help countries that have serious problems with their financial stability through new risk sharing mechanisms for the implementation of infrastructure and productive investment projects.

The justification states that many investments in which the private sector, out of caution, no longer wants to participate, could be realised if the Commission assumed the risk and redistributed it across the whole of the European Union. Proposals are formulated as an exception to cohesion policy, which is supposedly justified by the current situation in the indebted countries. Even Commissioner Šemeta, in his opening speech, acknowledged that the proposals presented circumvent European rules on the granting of State aid to a certain extent. I admit that I am not entirely confident in the fairness and correctness of this regulation. For if the private sector assesses an investment project as being sensible and having the required return, it will find adequate financial resources for its implementation. I am, therefore, not certain that it is prudent and wise to burden the European Union with guarantees for investments in which the private sector no longer believes.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, this is a European Commission proposal aimed at those Member States in serious difficulties. What is now being proposed, and I quote, is that ‘the transfer of part of the financial allocations available to these Member States back to the Commission would be allowed’. These sums, withdrawn from the initial allocations to the Member States in difficulties from the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund, will go towards covering losses resulting from loans and guarantees given to any private investors and banks financing projects cofinanced by these funds. This is yet another uniquely European exercise in solidarity. Instead of increasing the allocations to these countries, as was necessary, what is being done in practice – surely in anticipation of the upcoming financial perspectives – is reducing the overall sum available to these countries. There were other ways to overcome the severe limitations from the private investment side.

Fundamentally, in addition to the exorbitant interest rates charged under the IMF/EU programmes, what the Portuguese, Greek, Irish and Romanian peoples are seeing increasingly clearly is for what they can and cannot count on the European Union.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I welcome the coordination between the loan programmes and EU funds for Member States facing difficulties in respect of their financial stability. It is important to ensure that the programmes cofinanced through the ERDF and Cohesion Fund continue in the countries subject to budgetary constraints. I think that this proposal will have a positive impact on the economies of the crisis-stricken Member States. It will enable major infrastructure projects to be carried out, thereby contributing to the economic recovery through investment. Romania is one of the states receiving financial assistance from the IMF. The economic problems have also affected the infrastructure projects in my country. In this situation, I welcome the measures being discussed today, especially as the IMF and European Commission have recommended that Romania uses as much European funding as possible in its national infrastructure development programme.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to thank all the Members for their remarks. I am glad to see that we share the will to help those Member States most threatened by the economic and financial crisis.

In terms of extending the proposal to all Member States, I know that this issue was raised during the discussions in the different committees and during today’s debate. Let me underline that this is an exceptional crisis response measure, justified primarily by the severe situation of Greece, even if some of its elements may also be present in other Member States receiving financial support. On the other hand, at a time of strong budgetary constraints, extending the proposal to all Member States would potentially have a strong budgetary impact.

Regarding the scope of the legislative measure, initially, the Commission proposal addressed only national strategic reference framework projects. After discussions with the Member States, the EIB and MEPs, it was agreed to enlarge the measure to operations which contribute to the objectives of the national strategic reference framework of the requesting Member State and the Community strategic guidelines on cohesion. In the Commission’s view, this is a good compromise that will secure cohesion policy projects, taking into account other projects which fall under cohesion policy objectives. The Commission expects that a significant number of projects will be in the environment sector, including renewable energy.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that covering projects which are not related to cohesion policy would raise a series of questions, mainly of a policy and legal nature. The risk sharing instrument is a specific response mechanism addressed to a specific number of Member States. It cannot be considered to be a mechanism that offers an easy way out of reprogramming Structural Funds or accelerating absorption.

In conclusion, I would take this opportunity to underline that cohesion policy has again proven that not only is it a structural investment, it can also provide short-term assistance. I therefore call on the Members of the European Parliament to give their support to this legislative proposal.

 
  
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  Danuta Maria Hübner, rapporteur. – Mr President, I would briefly like to make two points. First of all, it is clear from the discussion we had, and from what the Commissioner said, that this new policy instrument will necessitate good cooperation between the implementing institutions and the Member State concerned.

In the light of this, I would like to express my hope that this new unlocked financing will enable countries like Greece promptly to resume the implementation of top-priority projects. We expect the EIB and the Commission to finalise the required operating arrangements as a matter of urgency.

My second point is that, from my point of view as rapporteur, we had an extremely effective dialogue with the shadow rapporteurs, with colleagues from other committees who delivered opinions, and with the Danish Presidency and the Commission. I would like to thank everybody.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 19 April 2012, at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing.(PT) This situation of prolonged financial and economic crisis, as well as the constantly increasing pressure on national financial resources, require measures ensuring the proper implementation of cohesion policy. With the intention that the Member States and their regions will continue implementing the programmes of the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund, the objective is to create provisions enabling the creation of a risk sharing mechanism. If this mechanism is to be feasible, there is a need to authorise the transfer of part of the financial allocations available to these Member States back to the Commission. I agree that the measure is intended to enhance the synergies between loan programmes and EU funds in the Member States that are or could come to be under EU and IMF assistance, and to contribute to attempts to overcome the major obstacles faced by some Member States in mobilising the private finance necessary for investing in infrastructure and production. However, I am bound to stress that I have some reservations about how this will be processed, as well as a certain amount of apprehension that this mechanism will, for example, do further damage to the less favoured regions.

 
  
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  Constanze Angela Krehl (S&D), in writing.(DE) Targeted investment in business, infrastructure and renewable energies will be required in Greece in order to get the country back on its feet. This is precisely the purpose of the funds provided for under European cohesion policy. In order to implement our projects, however, we need money from private investors. These are unable to raise the necessary loans at present, however, because the banks mostly view any investment in Greece as too risky. That is why I believe we should use part of the funds already allocated to Greece to secure such loans. The banks can rest assured that they will get their money back, while investors will get their much-needed loans and can therefore participate in EU projects, enabling Greece to create several thousand jobs. The advantage of the report is also that it enables very efficient use of the precious funding that is available: by simply using these resources to secure the risk, we can generate more investment than if the money were to be invested directly in projects. Finally, this report makes one thing clear: the European Union is right behind Greece and private investors can rely on this fact.

 
Last updated: 16 July 2012Legal notice