1. What did the Commission propose today, what are the elements of the proposal?
The European Commission adopted the legislative proposal to put in place the European Fund for Strategic Investments, which is at the very heart of President Juncker's €315 billion Investment Offensive. The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) will mobilise additional investments in the real economy in areas including infrastructure, education, research, innovation, renewable energy and energy efficiency. It will also focus on SMEs and mid-cap companies (companies with between 250 and 3000 employees). The EFSI should target projects that promote job-creation, long-term growth and competitiveness. The proposal also sets up a European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) to provide advisory support to project identification, preparation and development across the Union. Finally, a European Investment Project Pipeline will improve investors' knowledge of existing and potential future projects, with no guarantee that these projects will be financed by the EFSI. Further details can be found in the press release.
2.1 Establishing the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) and the transparent pipeline of projects.
Council negotiations are expected to kick-off on 19 January 2015 in an ad-hoc Working Group established for the Investment Plan for Europe. Work in the European Parliament is also expected to start shortly. It is expected that the co-legislators agree on the text by June so that the EFSI can be operational by mid-2015.
2.2. Removing barriers to investment
As a further element of the Investment Plan, the European Commission is working to remove regulatory barriers to investment and strengthen the Single Market. A first set of actions is set out in the Commission's 2015 Work Programme.
The Commission proposal has to be adopted under the "ordinary legislative procedure" (co-decision) by the Union legislators, the European Parliament and Council as swiftly as possible so that new investments can start flowing from mid-2015. At the December European Council, heads of state and government urged "the Union legislators (…) to agree on [the proposal] by June, so that the new investments can be activated as early as mid-2015."
Governance of the EFSI
4. What is the EFSI's governance structure? Who will decide on the investment guidelines?
A Steering Board will decide on the overall orientation, the investment guidelines, the risk profile, strategic policies and asset allocation of the Fund. As long as the EIB and the Commission are the only contributors to the EFSI, the number of members and votes will be allocated based on size of their contributions and all decisions will be taken by consensus. When other contributors join the Fund, the number and votes will remain proportionate to the contributions and decisions will be taken by simple majority, if no consensus can be found. No decision can be adopted if the Commission or the EIB votes against it.
An Investment Committee will beaccountable to the Steering Board.It willvet specific projects and decide which will receive EFSI support, without any geographic or sectorial quotas. The Committee will consist of six independent market experts and a Managing Director who will be in charge of the day-to-day management of the EFSI and chair the Investment Committee. The Managing Director and his/her deputy will be appointed by the Steering Board on a joint proposal of the Commission and the EIB.
5. How will the EFSI governance structure ensure independence from the public and private contributors?
The use of the guarantee fund for each individual investment decisions will be validated by the Investment Committee consisting of independent professionals receiving a remuneration for their work in compliance with the investment guidelines. These independent experts shall have a high level of relevant market experience, inter alia in project finance, and be appointed by the Steering Board for a renewable fixed term of three years.
As contributor to the EFSI, the EIB will have representatives in the Steering Board. As long as the only contributors to the EFSI are the Union and the EIB, all decisions in the Steering Board shall be taken by consensus. Since the EFSI is operating within the EIB, any project supported by the EFSI will require approval according to the EIB’s regular procedures.
7. What is the role of the European Parliament and the Court of Auditors in the monitoring of the EFSI?
The draft Regulation foresees extensive rules to ensure accountability of the EFSI to the European Parliament. Monitoring is structured around two key principles:
(a) Reporting: The EIB will report (i) semi-annually to the Commission and (ii) annually to the European Parliament and the Council on the EIB financing and investment operations under the Regulation. The report shall be made public. The Commission will also report to the European Parliament on the application of the Regulation.
(b) Accountability: The European Parliament will have the right to organise at any time hearings with the Managing Director of the EFSI on the performance of the latter. The Managing Director will also have a legal obligation to reply swiftly – orally or in writing – to questions addressed by the European Parliament. The European Parliament can also request reporting by the Commission.
The Court of Auditors will apply its normal rules for auditing the EU guarantee and the payments and recoveries that are attributable to the general Budget of the Union. Its existing role as regards the auditing of the activity of the EIB (detailed in a tri-partite agreement between the EIB, the Court of Auditors and the Commission) remains unchanged.
National Contributions to the EFSI
8. How will the Commission encourage the participation of Member states to the Fund in a coordinated way?
The European Council on 18 December endorsed the Investment Plan for Europe:
"Fostering investment and addressing market failure in Europe is a key policy challenge. The new focus on investment, coupled with Member States' commitment to intensifying structural reforms and to pursuing growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, will provide the foundation for growth and jobs in Europe. (…) The EFSI will be open to contributions from Member States, directly or through national promotional banks. The European Council takes note of the favourable position the Commission has indicated towards such capital contributions in the context of the assessment of public finances under the Stability and Growth Pact, necessarily in line with the flexibility that is built into its existing rules".
The challenge of significant investment short-falls and their impact on growth and jobs is common to all Member States and many have expressed interest in potentially contributing to the EFSI.
President Juncker said in the European Parliament on 17 December:
“The new Fund is self-standing. However, its impact would obviously be much greater if Member States contribute to it. Several Member States have signalled their potential interest in doing so and I am now awaiting concrete proposals to this end. (…) For my part, I have signalled the Commission’s intention to take a favourable position towards such capital contributions in the context of the assessment of public finances under the Stability and Growth Pact. We will come forward with detailed guidance on this in January.”
The EFSI will be open to contributions from Member States, directly or through National Promotional Banks. Member States can also contribute at the level of different projects.
The EFSI will be constructed in the most flexible way to allow for Member States' contributions. Member States, directly or via their National Promotional Banks, could contribute either at the level of the risk-bearing capacity (complementing the contributions by the EU budget and the EIB), in an investment platform or by co-financing certain projects and activities.
10. Will national contributions to the future European Fund for Strategic Investments count as part of countries’ deficit or debt and will these be taken into account in the application of the Pact?
The statistical recording of such contributions in the deficit and/or debt of a Member State is a matter for Eurostat, the independent Statistical Office of the EU, which will need to assess the details once the Fund is established.
However, irrespective of the exact statistical recording, the Commission is able to clarify how the existing rules of the Pact can apply to these contributions (to the extent they would have an impact on the statistics). It confirms that Member States' contributions to the EFSI will not be counted when defining the fiscal adjustment under either the preventive or corrective arm of the Pact, because such contributions can be considered as "one-off measures" that are deducted for the assessment of the fiscal effort in structural terms.
In the case of a 3% deficit reference value is no longer respected, the Commission will not launch an Excessive Deficit Procedure if it is due to the contribution, provided the deviation is small and expected to be temporary. When assessing respect of the debt reference value, contributions to the EFSI will be considered as a "relevant factor" and not be taken into account.
In its Investment Plan for Europe, it had already announced that it would take account favourably such contributions under the Pact, and this was echoed by the December 2014 European Council.
While the statistical recording of contributions to the EFSI, and specifically their impact on deficits and/or debt, will be confirmed in due time by Eurostat, the Commission considers it important to already provide the necessary guidance on how the existing rules of the Pact can apply to these.
The Commission already indicated in November that it would ensure favourable treatment under the Stability and Growth Pact for national contributions to the EFSI. A separate Communication published by the Commission today on the use of flexibility within the existing rules of the Pact provides further guidance on this question.
It makes clear that national contributions to the EFSI will not be taken into account by the Commission when defining the fiscal adjustment under either the preventive or the corrective arm of the Pact.
In case of a deviation from the deficit reference value, the Commission will not launch an EDP if this deviation is only due to the contribution, and is small and expected to be temporary. When assessing a deviation from the debt reference value, contributions to the EFSI will not be taken into account by the Commission.
For countries benefiting from the so-called "investment clause", co-financing with the EFSI of projects or investment platforms will also benefit from a favourable treatment under the Pact.
Specifically, the Commission will consider that:
Under the preventive arm of the Pact, neither the achievement of the medium-term budgetary objective (MTO) nor the required fiscal adjustment towards it would be affected, since both are set in structural terms. The structural balance is by definition not affected by one-off expenditures, such as the contributions to the Fund.
Under the corrective arm of the Pact (the Excessive Deficit Procedure [EDP]), compliance with the fiscal adjustment effort recommended by the Council would not be affected, since this is also measured in structural terms. A contribution to the EFSI should therefore not lead to a Member State being found non-compliant with its EDP recommendation.
In case of a breach of the 3% deficit threshold, when preparing the report envisaged under Article 126(3) of the TFEU, the Commission will consider the contribution to the EFSI to be a “relevant factor” in line with Article 2(3) of Regulation 1467/97. This means that an EDP will not be launched provided the breach is due to the contribution to the EFSI, and provided it is small and is expected to be temporary.
In case of a breach of the debt criterion, when preparing the report envisaged under Article 126(3) of the TFEU, the Commission will consider the contribution to the EFSI to be a “relevant factor” in line with Article 2(3) of Regulation 1467/97. This means that the Commission will not launch an EDP provided that the breach is due to the contribution to the EFSI.
12. Why would governments invest in the Fund if there's no guarantee that their projects would be financed?
The €315 billion EU Investment Plan was designed to stand alone. However, the EFSI has been constructed to allow Member States to contribute directly with cash or guarantees. The EIB is an institution with a long history without country-specific or sectorial quotas, and yet Member States participate in its capital.
Supporting quality investments and restoring confidence in Europe's economy is a key priority as stated in the December Council conclusions. The reduction of investment shortfalls, the promotion of jobs and growth and a sustainable recovery would benefit all EU Member States. The EFSI should finance projects across the Union, including in the countries most affected by the financial crisis.
Moreover, the EFSI is an instrument that will provide additional risk-financing (the kind of financial instruments that are often missing in the current economic environment). This could be of great benefit for innovative smaller companies and cross-border infrastructure projects.
Member States participating in the EFSI's capital will also get proportional seats and votes in the EFSI's Steering Board, determined by the size of their contribution. This would allow them to have a say in defining the investment guidelines and risk profile of the Fund, but not to intervene in individual investment decisions.
Finally, Member States will also be able to participate alongside the EFSI via co-investment platforms, which would allow them to channel their investments into specific areas or sectors, as well as to collaborate on the funding of transnational and regional projects.
13. How can National Promotional Banks contribute (money/staff)?
National Promotional Banks (NPBs) are welcome to contribute at the level of the Fund, in a co-investment platform or at project level. It will be important for the success of the Plan to ensure close coordination between the EIB and National Promotional Banks as the latter also have valuable expertise on the ground.
The EFSI is open to third parties, including entities outside the Union, subject to the consent of existing contributors. Third parties may contribute directly to the EFSI and take part in a proportional way in the EFSI governance structure. The Commission and the EIB will never be able to be outvoted according to the governance of the new structure.
Projects to be financed by the EFSI
Contacts with the private sector have shown that investors put particular emphasis on the robust quality and independent selection of projects that could be supported by the Investment Plan. Projects should be (1) economically viable with the support of the initiative, (2) sufficiently mature to be appraised on a global or local basis, (3) of European added value and consistent with EU policy priorities (such as, for example, the 2030 climate and energy package, Europe 2020 Strategy and other long-term EU strategic priorities). Moreover, projects should not be limited to cross-border projects (such as the case with TEN-T and TEN-E projects).
The proposal states that the EFSI should target "projects with a higher risk-return profile than existing EIB and Union instruments to ensure additionality over existing operations. (…) The EFSI should only be used where financing is not available from other sources on reasonable terms".
The Steering Board will prepare the investment guidelines which determine the types of projects the EFSI will support. EFSI financing will be approved by the Investment Committee. Investment operations shall be in line with Union policies and support general objectives such as
- development of infrastructure, including in the areas of transport, particularly in industrial centres; energy, in particular energy interconnections; and digital infrastructure;
- investment in education, health, research and development, information and communications technology and innovation;
- expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency;
- infrastructure projects in the environmental, natural resources, urban development and social fields;
- providing financial support for the companies having up to 3000 employees, including working capital risk financing.
The assessment will be based on strict quality criteria and there will be no country-specific or sector-specific quotas. The criteria for assessment will be specified in the Fund's investment policy, which will be proposed by the Steering Board of the EFSI.
It is important to ensure that high quality and economically viable projects are selected in key growth-enhancing areas. Projects will for example be identified according to their EU added value, economic and social viability and the possibility for the projects to start at the latest within the next three years, i.e. a reasonable expectation for capital expenditure in the 2015-2017 period.
The report of the Task Force on Investment – published on 9 December – already identified more than 2000 projects worth over €1.3 trillion. It was compiled on the basis of lists Member States prepared independently. The Task Force Report does not pre-empt financing commitments by the Commission or the EIB. The identification of projects by the Task Force is a first step towards creating a critical mass of projects for the EFSI to start to deliver quickly a forward-looking and transparent pipeline of investable projects. The pipeline will be dynamic: some projects will enter the list, others will be removed from the list, some will get financing and some will never be financed.
There will be no such thing as a definitive list of projects that will be guaranteed financing by the EFSI.
17. One of the selection criteria for the projects is that they "have the potential to leverage other sources of funding". How will this criterion be applied in practice? Won't every project that receives an EU guarantee become more attractive and therefore have the potential to leverage other sources of funding?
The type of risk-financing instruments will be designed so as to take uncertainty out ("first loss protection") of as such viable projects and therefore crowd-in private sector investments. Since the EFSI will take riskier tranches in investment projects, the private sector will be able to join under more favourable conditions. The individual projects are not receiving an EU guarantee. The role of the guarantee is to provide the EIB with additional risk-bearing capacity so that it can invest in projects with a higher risk profile without losing its triple-A rating.
Deciding the energy mix is the responsibility of each Member State.
The criteria for assessment will be specified in the Fund's investment policy. This investment policy will be in line with President Juncker's political guidelines and will be decided by the Steering Board of the ESFI. As President Juncker said at the European Parliament on 17 December: "We want to invest in projects that make sense. We want to invest in projects with long-term growth potential - not into new cathedrals or new tunnels leading through mountains that you can cross in any case. We do not want to invest in projects simply for the sake of doing projects but because they make sense. We must counter the impression that we have no other ideas than promoting the nuclear industry and investing in nuclear power plants. That’s not the Commission's intention. The national energy mix is a matter for Member States and not for the Commission in any case."
The lists of projects in the report of the joint Commission-EIB Investment Task Force published on 9 December were prepared independently by Member States and do not pre-judge financing commitments by the Commission or the EIB.
Projects will be selected based on their viability, reliability and credibility. The Investment Plan will also target projects with high economic and societal value. Commercial return is not the only benchmark. It is important to ensure high quality projects are selected in key growth-enhancing areas such as: knowledge, innovation and the digital economy; energy union; transport infrastructure; social infrastructure; and natural resources and the environment.
The Commission and the EIB will develop, update and disseminate, on a regular and structured basis, information on current and future investments which contribute to achieving EU policy objectives. Member States will do the same at national level.
20. How will the EFSI intervene concretely to finance investments projects?
The EFSI will reach out directly to project promoters and financial intermediaries in the same way as the EIB is already doing today.
21. How will the EFSI intervene concretely on long-term investment projects, notably on projects which demand a large share of public investments (50% or more)?
The is often the case in the field of energy efficiency, infrastructure and digital agenda (e.g. broadband in remote areas) for projects to be viable. The EFSI will - as a rule - provide the riskier tranche of the investment so as to maximise the contribution from private sources of financing by taking risk out of the equation ("first loss protection"). Member States and National Promotional Banks can provide co-financing at the level of different projects. In this way they can ensure a higher level of public financing in a certain project. Clearly, depending on the sector and the area, some projects will generate higher returns than others. This is not problematic, since the EFSI will have a vast portfolio of different projects in different areas, ranging from transport to education, energy to innovation.
In addition, Member States can use Structural Funds to finance projects which need a high level of public participation and where it may be more difficult to attract private investors, given the more limited levels of return.
22. What would be the difference between the current EIB-financed projects and the projects that could be finances by the EFSI?
The activities of the EFSI are additional to the EIB's traditional activities because they target a different risk profile. The EFSI will for example get involved in cutting-edge new technology and innovation sectors, as well as finance projects that are perceived as riskier because of their country risk and due to risk-aversion from the private sector.
23. How will the Commission ensure that the projects financed by the EFSI are in line with the Europe 2020 strategy?
The legal text establishing the EFSI contains a reference to the Europe 2020 targets to ensure that financing remains in line with these important objectives. A reference to Europe 2020 targets will be included in the investment guidelines.
24. How will the Commission ensure that a Fund depending essentially on private participation will invest in projects aiming to promote sustainable and environmentally-friendly economic growth?
The Fund is self-standing and does not depend on private money. Private investors can contribute to the Fund but are primarily expected to co-finance specificprojects.
The Fund will decide in which projects to invest according to the investment guidelines to be decided by the Steering Board. The Investment Committee, consisting of professionals, will decide on individual projects, based on their merits. While the detailed criteria have yet to be set, it is clear that viability criteria can differ depending on the nature of the sector: Renewable energy is clearly different from transport, which is different from education. Promotion of sustainable and environmentally friendly economic growth, creation of quality jobs and enhanced convergence, including in terms of competitiveness, are elements that are likely to be taken into account in this context.
25. How will the Commission ensure that the EFSI will address macro-economic imbalances among EU Member States and, particularly, that the most depressed economies will benefit from these investments?
Member States are encouraged to continue using the Structural Funds for regional and local projects contributing to social and economic cohesion. The ESFI will not have funds ear-marked for certain sectors or regions. However, as mentioned, viability criteria will differ depending on the sector and societal return which will be taken into account in this context. In any event, the EFSI will finance projects across the Union and technical assistance will be stepped up significantly to ensure that all countries can present well-constructed, viable and investible projects.
26. When will the criteria for the selection of projects be defined? What is the procedure for the negotiation of the agreement with the EIB on the establishment of the EFSI and the investment guidelines?
The investment guidelines and the detailed criteria for the selection of projects will be defined by the Steering Board of the EFSI, once the latter is appointed.
The agreement between the Commission and the EIB on the establishment will be negotiated in the coming months. For obvious reasons, it cannot be finalised before the legislators come to an agreement on the Regulation establishing the EFSI, as it is meant to flesh out in more technical terms the legal obligations enshrined in the Regulation.
In accordance with the Treaty, infrastructure and project investments supported under EFSI need to be consistent with EU State aid rules. State aid rules ensure that projects address real needs, keep costs under control and guarantee that public money is genuinely required to get projects off the ground. Applying state aid control principles thus sends a reassuring message to those involved in subsidised projects, competitors working on rival infrastructure and taxpayers: it ensures the economic viability of projects, maximising effect on economic growth and jobs.
To that end, the Commission announced in the Investment Plan for Europe that for the purpose of State aid assessments, a project will have to meet a set of core principles, inspired by competition policy, to be eligible for support under the EFSI – public support should be limited to what is necessary to kick-start investment and should not result in overcompensation; no duplication of existing infrastructure; and fair and reasonable access to infrastructure should be available to all users.
If a project meets these criteria and receives support from the EFSI, the Commission has announced that any national complementary support will be assessed under a simplified and accelerated State aid assessment. This is possible because EFSI funding projects will already respect the core principles of state aid rules.
Financing and functioning of the EFSI
28. How will the €8 billion earmarking within the EU budget provide €16 billion of guarantees to the EFSI?
The EU has a very high quality signature and its budget is solid and trust-worthy. Thus, the EU does not need to provide pre-financing for such a guarantee to be credible for the markets and useful for the EIB. The guarantee fund of €8 billion is established only to facilitate the payment of potential guarantee calls, since it avoids having to arrange sudden spending cuts or re-programming. Thus, it brings transparency and predictability to the budgetary framework but is not as such necessary for the guarantee to work.
In other words, the guarantee fund will be put in place to mitigate any potential impact on the EU budget. Its calibration (50% of the value of the guarantee) has been chosen so that the EU can meet any potential risks with an adequate safety margin.
In terms of budgetary construction, a similar set-up is already being used for the EIB's lending activities outside the Union. The EFSI is a partnership agreement between the Commission and the EIB. The EIB is a financial institution with a track-record dating back to 1958 and ample experience in providing risk-bearing capacity and mobilising finance from private investors.
The EFSI will have the major advantage of being able to finance projects in a number of different sectors, ranging from energy and transport to innovation, meaning that it will have a broad portfolio of very different projects. Moreover, the EFSI will have the flexibility to work with a wide range of different financial instruments, chosen depending on the profile of the projects, including, for example, debt financing (subordinated or senior), guarantees, equity, quasi-equity and venture capital. It is important to bear in mind that the aim is to offer financing solutions that crowd-in private investors. The EFSI will not give grants and subsidies.
30. Will mobilising € 8 billion from the EU budget require an amending Budget 2015? Will that require the mobilisation of some flexibility mechanisms foreseen in the MFF 2014 -2020 Regulation?
The proposal establishes an EU Guarantee Fund which will provide a liquidity cushion for the Union budget against potential losses incurred by the EFSI when supporting projects. It will gradually reach €8 billion by 2020 via payments from the EU budget. This requires an amendment to the 2015 EU Budget, which will create the necessary new budget lines and transfer €1.36 billion in commitment appropriations and €10 million in payment appropriations to these new lines. The €10 million in payments will help cover the administrative costs of the European Investment Advisory Hub. The overall impact for the 2015 EU Budget is neutral. No legislative changes to the current MFF are needed. The provisioning of the Guarantee Fund will be constituted on the basis of existing budget reserves and the reallocation of certain, limited amounts from the Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon 2020.
One legal act (a Regulation) is necessary to set up the guarantee and the provisioning fund and do the necessary, limited, changes to the Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon 2020 Regulations. The Regulation will be adopted in co-decision (the ordinary legislative procedure). A draft amended budget was adopted by the Commission together with the proposed Regulation.
Yes, higher paid-in capital (for example via contributions from Member States) in the risk-bearing capacity of EFSI (currently €21 billion) would allow the EIB to increase its financing activities and would mobilise additional investments in the real economy.
Research, Horizon 2020 and the European Structural and Investment Funds
32. As money will be transferred from Horizon 2020 to the EFSI, does this mean the money initially foreseen for Horizon 2020 is lost?
The seed capital for the EFSI which is taken from the Horizon 2020 to generate additional investments of at least €315 billion, is not money lost for innovation. On the contrary, this is money that will be used to attract much more important sums that will then be reinvested in innovation, delivering higher returns.
The redeployment of money from Horizon 2020 to the Investment Plan represents only 3.5% of the research and innovation financial envelope. Moreover, that money will be used for investment in innovative projects with a higher leverage effect. With the Investment Plan, the overall amount of investment on innovation mobilised by the EU budget in the next years will be higher than with Horizon 2020 only.
Finally, the means in the Guarantee Fund will be phased in over time and the payments will be significantly back-loaded. This means that the spending scheduled for Horizon 2020 in 2015-2016 will not be affected.
The redeployment of €2.7 billion from Horizon 2020 to the EFSI Guarantee Fund represents 3.5% of the total Horizon 2020 financial envelope for 2014-2020. Horizon 2020 remains a high priority during the period 2014-2020. After this redeployment, the Horizon 2020 financial envelope is still 38% higher than the one of the 7th Framework Programme 2007-2013.
Once the EFSI Regulation and the consequent budgetary adjustments are adopted by the European Parliament and Council, those €2.7 billion will constitute a provision in the EFSI Guarantee Fund. This money will be blocked in the Guarantee Fund and can only be used to pay possible guarantee calls by the EIB.
34. Why is money taken from the excellent and successful European Research Council? Is the Commission against research?
Excellence in research and the European Research Council (ERC) is a top priority for the Union. This is reflected in the ERC's budget for 2014-2020.
The ERC budget in 2014-2020 will still represent an increase of over 70% compared to the 2007-2013 ERC budget (increase of 71.4% in nominal terms, 58% in real terms / €12.874 billion against €7.510 billion).
The level of ERC budget redeployment is lower (1.7%, representing €221.2 million) than redeployment from the global Horizon2020 budget (3.5%).
In 2013, after difficult negotiations, the EU adopted a €1 trillion multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020.
The MFF is divided into headings (e.g. competitiveness, cohesion, agriculture, external action). A transfer of funds between headings requires a change to the MFF that can only be decided by unanimity among Member States. Such a change would necessitate a complex and time-consuming negotiation, the outcome of which would be uncertain.
Structural funds can be used by Member States to invest alongside the EFSI in eligible projects. Member States and regional authorities are also invited to use EU funds at their disposal as effectively as possible in support of investment, by focusing on key areas and maximising the multiplier effect of every euro invested. This implies an increased use of financial instruments in the form of loans, equity and guarantees, instead of traditional grants.
In the context of the Investment Plan, the ambition is to at least double the use of innovative financial instruments in the European Structural and Investment Funds from 2014 to 2020. The increased use of innovative financial instruments, rather than grants, should create additional impact of every euro mobilised.
By doubling the amount of innovative instruments and using the multiplier effect, at least €20 billion in terms of additional investments in the real economy could be mobilised between 2015 and 2017.
Member States and regions can also raise the multiplier effect of EU funds by increasing national co-financing beyond the minimum legal requirement. Member States are invited to use EU funds still available under the 2007 to 2013 programming period to their best effect and ensure that they are fully used in support of this Investment Plan.
37. Isn't there an overlap between the EFSI and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)?
No. They have different purposes and are implemented with different financial instruments. While the EFSI focuses on attracting private investors in economically viable projects, the bulk of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) consists of grants while Member States are encouraged to at least double the use of innovative financial instruments in the future.
To take a fictitious example: building a road with a toll in an industrial centre might attract investors and could thus be more easily funded through the EFSI. But building a road without toll in a rural area will probably not attract private investors and is therefore better funded through the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
38. Would it be possible for Member States to contribute to the EFSI from structural funds and their national contribution (co-financing)?
Member States will be able to use European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to co-finance projects at project level. The use of structural funds to pay in capital at the EFSI level is not possible, since the EFSI would not meet the eligibility criteria for use of ESIF.
Member States can contribute via their general government or via their National Promotional Banks.
The Financing Mechanisms of the EFSI
40. The EFSI is supposed to start working at the beginning of 2015 thanks to a "frontloading "of the €5 billion EIB participation. How will this work concretely?
The EIB will take all the preparatory steps at the beginning of 2015 to be able to sign commitments, without waiting for the publication in the Official Journal of the Regulation creating the Guarantee Fund for the EIB.
41. How will the EIB provide these financial resources? Does this reduce other EIB activities accordingly?
No, the risk-bearing capacity will allow the EIB to increase its volumes of lending to activities with a higher risk profile. This will be additional and complementary to the current EIB activities. The EIB will adjust its borrowing activities for 2015-2017 once the EFSI has been set up.
42. Which financial mechanisms will ensure that more than €60 billion of financial capacity will be available to the ESFI based on an initial input of €21bn? What do you mean by "risk bearing capacity "?
From a financial point of view, this multiplier effect is obtained by the combined effect of the EIB issuing additional bonds on the markets in order to finance projects with a higher level of risk, together with the blending of the existing and diversified EIB portfolio. The existence of a €21billion risk-bearing capacity means that there is a capacity of public funding to absorb significant losses. For private investors wishing to invest in a certain project, this means that they are reassured that they have a safety net against potential losses ("a first loss-protection").
43. The EFSI is supposed to be a trust fund within the EIB group. Can the Commission provide further details as to the future legal status of the EFSI? In particular, how would the EIB be concretely involved and work within the EFSI?
The EFSI will be a separate account managed by the EIB. It will have its own accountability arrangements, clear decision-making procedures and dedicated staff.
44. How will the Commission ensure a full involvement of the European Parliament in the definition and implementation of the Investment Plan?
The proposed Regulation is based on Articles 172, 173, 175(3) and 182 TFEU which foresee adoption by co-decision, meaning that the co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council, decide on an equal footing.
In addition, the Parliament will be regularly informed about the activities of the EFSI (see question and can invite its Managing Director and the Commission to answer specific questions (see question 7).
45. By providing the first-loss guarantee, might the Fund not be saddled with some loss making projects for decades? Will the EFSI enable financing of projects that would be too risky for the EIB?
The EIB is a public bank whose activities are not guided towards making profit. The characteristics of what it can do are limited by the fact that it is a bank that needs to repay the funds which it uses to lend money and manage the risk of its portfolio. Having said that, the EFSI will play the role of absorbing some of the risk so as to allow the bank to lend to additional projects with higher risk profiles.
The intention is that the EFSI should not end up being the only financing source. The objective is that the EFSI protects other investors against the first loss, making investments more attractive for these investors. Projects will only be selected if - with the EFSI's involvement – an appropriate multiplier effect can be achieved in terms of attracting private investors and if the projects are viable. Obviously, some projects will generate higher returns than others.
Projects will be selected by an independent board of experts – the Investment Committee – based on their quality. There may be losses in certain projects, but the overall Fund performance shall provide long-term returns to public and private investors and thus, positive returns on taxpayer's money.
46. Where does the €5 billion EIB guarantee come from? The capital increase of 2013? Money raised in the markets? Other resources?
The €5 billion come from the EIB’s own resources. The asset quality of the EIB’s outstanding loans has improved in line with the economic environment. This has allowed reserves to be freed that may be used to support this new initiative.
With the €16 billion EU guarantee the EIB will have substantially more firepower to finance additional projects.
Thanks to the EFSI, the impact of these EU programmes on the real economy will be multiplied, compared to what they would have achieved otherwise. The EFSI will invest in, and finance, projects in the areas covered by these two instruments but, by multiplier the resources, allows for far higher amounts to be used than the original intention. It is, therefore, not a matter of crowding out other investment projects, but using the existing money better to generate additional amounts for investment projects.
The extra leverage is generated by the EIB borrowing against the money, rather than the money going directly to the end-recipient. The €21 billion from the EFSI allows the EIB to borrow around three times as much, and then invest/finance the final recipient, rather than the €21 billion being given directly as grants.
50. Is it a mere coincidence that the same amount from the EIB €5 billion is also the same amount allocated as risk capital for SME (or is EIB-money earmarked for this purpose)?
The EIB money is not earmarked for this purpose. This is a coincidence.
51. There is too little capital, too little cash, only financial engineering (as with the past €120 billion plan)
This is a smart use of public money to help channel private money into investments.
To establish the EFSI, a guarantee of €16 billion will be created under the EU budget. This money will go to the Fund. The Guarantee, coupled with EIB-resources of €5 billion will absorb the higher risk in strategic investments and in this way mobilise private resources that are currently not being invested in the real economy. The Fund will thus start with a significant firepower while being able to expand its activities further over time. Besides, the Commission and the EIB have identified a conservative leverage ratio of 15 to 1 as sound and feasible. The EIB has vast experience in this area.
In addition, and on top of the €315 billion mobilised by the EFSI, European Structural and Investment Funds need to be deployed in a more efficient way which will multiply the effect of the Fund. And finally, Member States and private investors can participate directly in the Fund or at project level.
52. Money will not go to relatively safe projects that would have been financed anyway. Isn't the Investment Plan crowding out private investors?
The EFSI targets higher risk projects than the private sector would finance on its own without the guarantee. It contributes to financing projects that could not be financed solely by the public or private sectors. It is not the objective of the EFSI to finance projects that could get access to finance in the private sector, national level or other EU schemes.
53. The 1:15 multiplier is considered by the Commission as "a prudent average, based on historical experience from EU programmes and the EIB". What is the concrete experience you are referring to?
As representatives of the EIB have said on several occasions, the multiplier effect is considered to be "conservative", based on the EIB experience. The risk-department of the EIB has a long track-record of lending activities in different sectors. By way of example, the EIB capital-increase from 2012-13 is generating a multiplier effect of 1:18. On the Commission side, experience from the COSME programme (SME-financing), suggests a multiplier effect of at least 1:20.
54. What is the concrete data available? Is this historical experience relevant to the current situation with squeezed national budgets?
The multiplier effect is an estimated average and there is no direct link to national budget situations. An important element of the multiplier factor is the crowding-in of private investors. By contrast to some years ago, there is today a high level of liquidity in Europe, meaning that private investors have available liquidity which they can mobilise for investments.
55. What kind of financial vehicles will the EFSI's activities rely on to attract private/public investors in the financing of a project? Debt and Risk enhancement vehicles? Project-bonds? Equity instruments? Other types of financial instruments?
The EFSI will work with a wide range of financial instruments and will be flexible in terms of which instrument to use, depending on the project in question, to ensure the most efficient financing solutions. The EFSI can for example use debt instruments, guarantees, equity, quasi-equity instruments, credit enhancement tools or venture capital. It will be able to finance projects directly or participate in funds that finance various projects.