At the opening of the European Investment Bank's conference held today in London, on the theme of Private Sector Development in the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs): The role of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Vice-President of the Bank, Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive called for further private sector development in the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) via the Bank's Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), which forms part of his portfolio of responsibilities within the EIB.

The conference, organised in cooperation with UK Trade & Investment and MEA, has been designed to inform the industrial and financial communities and professional associations represented in London of the opportunities presented by FEMIP for strengthening the private sector in the EU's Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC). The broad range of top level speakers from the EIB, the Commission and other economic organisations operating in the UK and the MPC included: Mr. David Warren, Group Director ITD, UK Trade & Investment, Mr Michel MARTO, former Minister of Finance, Jordan, Mr Cyrus ARDALAN, Vice Chairman, Barclay's Capital, Mr Craig J. COWLEY, Head of Structural Finance, Treasury, British Gas Group, Mr Patrick WALSH, Head of Turkey Division, EIB, Mr. Cem DUNA, Board Member, Federation of Turkish Industrialists (TUSIAD); Mr. Mohamed Sherif SHARAF, Chairman, Export Development Bank, Egypt, Mrs. Jane MACPHERSON, Head of Middle East Division, EIB, and Mr Michael THOMAS, International Trade Director, MEA.

Discussion with the more than 150 participants was animated by Lyse Doucet of the BBC, acting as moderator.

Drawing from the EIB's experience, Vice-President de Fontaine Vive also underlined the importance of creating favourable and sound conditions for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. The Bank has made the financing of SMEs through various programmes one of its priorities, as they form the basis for any sustainable economic development.

Vice-President de Fontaine Vive indicated that the London Conference being held shortly after a first conference in Casablanca (Morocco) last week was a direct follow up on decisions at the European Council held in December 2003 to strengthen Euromediterranean partnership. It will be followed by similar ones both within the Union and in the other Partner Countries. These meetings provide a forum for outlining the various financing techniques used by the EIB in its FEMIP operations. They also afford an opportunity to talk to business leaders and government representatives, so making for a clearer understanding of the constraints affecting FEMIP and allowing its instruments and operations to be fine-tuned accordingly.

A clearer business focus will emerge after the experts' meeting which will take place in Marseilles on February 16th and 17th and the Ministerial meeting scheduled in Alexandria (Egypt) in June 7th-8th.

The Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), established within the European Investment Bank (EIB), is a major step forward in financial and economic cooperation between the Union and the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs). It foresees EUR 8-10 billion funding of investments in the MPCs by 2006. It has at its disposal funds under the existing Euro-Mediterranean mandates, risk capital resources from the EU budget as well as technical assistance and investment aid funds provided by the Union. FEMIP's top priority is to promote private sector development (especially SMEs and FDI) and support projects helping to establish a propitious climate for private investment (economic infrastructure, health and education schemes). FEMIP's ultimate goal is to help the MPCs meet the challenges of economic and social modernisation and enhance regional integration in the run-up to the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean free-trade area planned for 2010.

Set up following the Barcelona European Council in March 2002, it was inaugurated in October 2002. Satisfactory results during its first year of operations led the December 2003 European Council in Brussels to further reinforce FEMIP through closer cooperation of the 27 Euromed Partner countries (15 EU, 2 Acceeding and 10 MPCs), opening of offices in the Maghreb, setting up a trust fund open to Member States interested in Mediterranean issues and promoting innovative financing instruments, allowing EIB to be more risk taking.

FEMIP involves the MPCs in its activities through its Ministerial Committee and its preparatory meetings of experts, as well as by establishing local offices (in 2003 an office was opened for the Mashreq in Cairo, with further local representation foreseen later this year in Maghreb ). It also aims at stepping up long-term lending and developing new products and technical assistance. For 2004, FEMIP is lining up financing operations totalling some EUR 2 billion.

Through FEMIP, the EIB has lent a total of EUR 3.7 billion over the last two years for operations from which nearly all the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) are benefiting.