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Tuesday, 24 March 2009 - Strasbourg OJ edition

EIB and EBRD annual reports for 2007 - Community guarantee to the European Investment Bank (debate)

  Gay Mitchell, rapporteur. − Mr President, can I say at the outset that I really do strongly object to the way Members of Parliament have their time shortened here. Question Time is not being heard this week, either by the Council or the Commission. People can come in here and speak at all sorts of great length. Members of Parliament introducing reports on behalf of Parliament are shortened without notice. This is an outrageous imposition on MEPs.

As rapporteur, I would first like to welcome President Maystadt and President Mirow to the Chamber on this first time that Parliament has drafted a report on the activities of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) concurrently. There can be no doubting the fact that the current financial crisis has highlighted the importance of the work of the EIB and the EBRD. Both banks are to be praised for their efforts in tackling the effects of the economic crisis. They are both facing up to the challenges presented, and I commend them for this. It is important that we consider both banks at the same time, so as to ensure better cooperation between them and the elimination of overlap.

Both banks should ensure that there is maximum synergy so as to prepare for and assist economic recovery. The decision to increase lending to small and medium-sized enterprises by 50% is particularly welcome. The initially planned EUR 5 billion per year for SME lending has been increased to EUR 7.5 billion per year over the four year period 2008-2011.

An example of new funding is the EUR 310 million approved recently by the EIB for investment in SMEs in Ireland. The EIB has made it clear that more can be made available, and at very competitive interest rates, to Irish SMEs and to other SMEs. In my view, Europe needs to think in terms of a Marshall Aid-type plan, which worked so well after the Second World War.

If the EIB could be persuaded to, say, borrow from China to invest in the Bank, it could use such resources to help kick-start the economic recovery and bring this about sooner. This borrowing could be repaid by committing part of the extra customs duties that would be collected by the EU from renewed external trade and some of the new VAT receipts to this objective. This would have the added benefit of taking the pressure off EU Member States and their individual requirements to keep within the Stability and Growth Pact in terms of additional borrowing.

In 2007, EU inward investment in China was EUR 7.16 billion, while China’s inward investment in the EU was only EUR 0.6 billion. Both the EU and China would benefit from increased trade. I am conscious of the visit to China by the President of the Commission, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the President of the European Central Bank before Christmas. The recent EU-China follow-up summit is a welcome sign of hope.

We got into a mess because we were not focusing on the issues. It is time to start focusing on recovery, including making the EU more competitive, as proposed by the Lisbon Treaty. I am very pleased about the proposals which are being made in the context of the energy crisis and climate control and, in particular, the role of the EIB in this. I am also pleased that the recent decision of the Court on codecision has been announced and that Parliament will now have an enhanced role in relation to these two banks.

I have proposed in my report – and it has been endorsed by the committee and I am sure will be endorsed by Parliament – that the Commission and the two banks should come before the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on a regular basis to account for the coordination of the roles, and for the implementation of the policies, of both banks. I think this will be a very useful development. What we need is more transparency and more accountability. We heard Prime Minister Brown talking about this in terms of the international financial crisis. We should be thinking about it in terms of accountability to this House for our own financial institutions and those that are part-funded by financial institutions.

I welcome the general thrust of the intent of the banks, particularly in relation to climate control and energy, and I hope the House will support the main thrust of the report which I have brought forward.

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