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    On 28th June, the EIB hosted in Luxembourg the annual visit of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Committee of Ambassadors and ACP Secretariat, welcoming over 100 delegates representing 49 ACP countries.

    Representatives of the African Union, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union), the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) also participated.

    The event has become a landmark in the ACP Group calendar, providing a unique opportunity for discussions on core topics with EIB management, EU colleagues and operational staff.

    In his opening speech, President Hoyer placed emphasis on the importance of sustainability in the global development agenda, as underscored at the Rio +20 conference and the ACP-EU Council of Ministers meetings in Vanuatu, both held in the preceding weeks. Sustainability “is a core component of our financial and technical support to developing countries in their efforts to foster a stable economic environment, promote growth and reduce poverty”, said M Hoyer.

    Vice President Plutarchos Sakellaris, responsible for lending operations in the ACPs, gave an overview of the key results of the Bank’s activities in the regions in 2011. Two other topics topped the meeting agenda: small business and energy.

    Access to finance for SMEs

    SMEs are “the very backbone of our economies and the promotion of their development is an imperative for fostering entrepreneurship, competition, innovation and hence the growth of our economies and regions” said H.E. Mrs Shirley Skerritt-Andrew Chairperson of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors,in her address.

    EIB experts provided an in-depth look into the role of financial intermediation in supporting SMEs and private sector development in ACP countries, exploring the constraints currently facing small businesses in accessing finance, particularly long-term lending.

    Creating an enabling environment to stimulate entrepreneurship, particularly through the strengthening of the regulatory and institutional frameworks in which SMEs operate is central to successful development of these sectors. Director General for lending operations outside Europe Tamsyn Barton underlined the importance of coupling loan investment with technical assistance to increase the bankability and successful implementation of projects, especially small ones. She welcomed the Vanuatu Council of Ministers’ decision to modify the Cotonou agreement to increase the ceiling available for technical assistance.

    Sustainable Energy for All

    The UN’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative calls for global cooperation to ensure universal access to modern energy, to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030.

    Klaus Rudischhauser, Director of Quality and Impact in the European Commission’s Development Cooperation directorate, gave an overview of EU loan-grant blending facilities, demonstrating the success of such instruments in leveraging finance for development, as well as strengthening and increasing coordination and collaboration between EU and non-EU aid actors.

    Such facilities are ideally suited for unlocking the finance and support needed to achieve the ambitious targets of the SE4All initiative. President Hoyer noted that “the EIB is ideally suited to contribute to such a European response because it is active in all three areas key for promoting the necessary sustainable energy investment – lending, blending of loans with grants, and advising”. Mr Rudischhauser also outlined the planned EU Platform for External Cooperation and Development, whose aim is to optimise the functioning of mechanisms for the blending of grants and loans in the field of external action.

    Spirit of partnership

    The EIB’s capital increase recently recommended by the European Council, focuses specifically on the economic growth and job creation within the EU Member States. However, President Hoyer highlighted that the ACP remains high on the EIB’s agenda, and that the partnership between the Bank and the ACPs “continues to be a useful instrument to promote sustainable growth and eradicate poverty”. He underlined that it is only in partnership with other international financial institutions and political bodies that this can be achieved. Greater cooperation with the European Commission, EU bodies and bilateral donors is essential to achieving the greatest development impact of the projects financed in the ACP regions.