Under the chairmanship of EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive, whose responsibilities include the Bank's operations in the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs), the first meeting of the Committee of Experts of the "Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership" (FEMIP) was held on 16 and 17 February 2004. Set up to operate as a think tank, this Committee is charged with the task of putting forward practical and operational recommendations to FEMIP's Ministerial Committee, made up of the Economics and Finance Ministers of the EU and the MPCs.

The Committee of Experts was welcomed to Marseille by Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin and the meeting was closed by Mr Renaud Muselier, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

The Mayor of Marseille expressed his pride that Marseille was again playing host to the EIB and the financial authorities of the 27 Mediterranean Partnership Countries. He added that "Peace between the peoples of the Mediterranean is built on mutual understanding and respect but underpinned by the sharing of wealth. It is the prospect of equitable and sustainable development for all the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region that motivates the City of Marseille's international initiatives. The Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership is a key tool in this regard. It is up to you to bring it to life and make it as effective as possible in preparation for the planned creation of a free-trade zone in 2010".

Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive, for his part, commented: Back in April 2003, Marseille played host to the EIB in connection with a seminar on sustainable investment in the Mediterranean. At that time FEMIP was equipping itself for its role and that meeting helped to chart its priorities and ambitions: namely to foster development of the private sector and foreign direct investment in the partner countries, in preparation for the Euro-Mediterranean customs union in 2010.

Not only has FEMIP achieved its objectives, continued Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive, but the European Council of December 2003 decided to further enhance its role in response to proposals put forward by the EIB. Our gathering in Marseille during these two days has put flesh on the bones, as it has entrusted the Committee of Experts with the task of preparing for the annual meetings of the Ministers of Economic Affairs and Finance - a veritable Euro-Mediterranean ECOFIN. In this spirit, the enhanced FEMIP represents a key instrument for close cooperation among all the partners concerned. It is supporting the institutional reforms that are the responsibility of each of the partner countries. This initiative is being mounted in concert with those of the other principal funders, and I am confident that a strategic partnership agreement between the EIB, the World Bank Group and the Commission to strengthen our cooperation will be concluded in the near future.

Concentrating on the two themes of privatisation and private companies' access to the various sources of finance, the 70 experts from the Mediterranean region came up with the following conclusions:

  • Privatisation in the partner countries: the importance of establishing an appropriate regulatory environment was strongly emphasised in these debates; FEMIP will be able to contribute in the preparation of projects and by providing financial instruments such as risk capital, long-term loans and technical assistance.
  • Access by private companies to the various sources of finance: efforts must focus on three broad areas:
    • The banking sector: reforming the banking sector so as to achieve greater concentration and exposure to international competition; improving service quality; training staff, particularly in credit risk analysis and the use of non-personal security.
    • Companies: improving the transparency of accounts and developing partnership with other investors.
    • Financial products: developing new products (leasing, risk capital, financial services) and new structures (investment funds, development capital companies, investment banks, guarantee funds).

In his closing address, Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive noted that: In 2003, FEMIP provided EUR 2.1 billion, of which 740 million was for foreign direct investment and 400 million for SMEs in the Mediterranean Partner Countries; on the financing side, FEMIP thus demonstrated its ability to meet expectations and the calls made on it. It now needs to establish itself as the benchmark for quality Euro-Mediterranean dialogue. The key summit will clearly be the meeting of FEMIP's Ministerial Committee to be held in Alexandria on 7 and 8 June 2004.

European Investment Bank (EIB) lending in the Mediterranean Partner Countries is provided under the EIB's Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP). Through FEMIP, the Bank focuses particularly on developing the private sector and financing socio-economic development infrastructure.

The European Council of 12/13 December 2003 decided to strengthen FEMIP in three main ways:

  • stepping up financial support in the region through a special facility for risk financing for the private sector (the SFE) and by setting up a trust fund;
  • diversifying the range of financial products offered, notably by seeking possible ways of providing local currency financing;
  • intensifying dialogue with the MPCs by organising meetings of the Committee of Experts to prepare the ground for the deliberations of FEMIP's Ministerial Committee and by establishing local offices in the Mashreq - where the Cairo office was established in June 2003 - and, some time in 2004, in the Maghreb.

FEMIP was set up in response to the conclusions of the European Council meeting in Barcelona (15 and 16 March 2002) and the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Valencia (22 and 23 April 2002). Its purpose is to help the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) in meeting the challenges of economic and social modernisation and the pursuit of regional integration in the run-up to the establishment (prospectively in 2010) of a free trade area between Europe and those countries.