Greece steps up its support for the economic development of the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) of the EU, by joining the Trust Fund of the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP). Its EUR 2 million pledge was announced today by Mr Georgios Alogoskoufis, Minister of Economy and Finance on the occasion of the visit of Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President in charge of FEMIP, to Athens.

On this occasion Mr de Fontaine Vive and Mr Georgios Mergos, Secretary General of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, held today a restricted meeting with top ranking Greek representatives of the banking and business community in order to discuss and coordinate the possible participation of major Greek economic actors in private investments in the Mediterranean Region.

During the visit Mr de Fontaine Vive was a keynote speaker at the Ministerial Development and Business Congress for the countries of the Mediterranean Basin organised by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr de Fontaine Vive, commented: Athens played this last spring host to the 1st Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly. Setting the scene, for 2005-the year of the Mediterranean, and striving the support of the Region both politically and economically, Greek authorities host today a Ministerial Development and Business Congress, showcasing in this way the long standing cultural and economic links the country enjoys with the peoples and states of the Region. They chose this framework to announce their pledge to the FEMIP Trust Fund, as a concrete recognition to the incontestable role the Facility plays in the economic development of the Region. In 2004, FEMIP broke a new record with the signature of 25 new operations for an overall figure of EUR 2.2 billion, a 5% increase compared to the already exceptional 2003 volumes. Today, FEMIP's total portfolio of operations exceeds EUR 12 billion and represents 2/3 of the EU economic support to the Region, complemented for the rest by European Commission grant aid. Our aim is primarily private sector development and ancillary investment in its enabling environment. The Greek business daemon is a much appreciated partner.

FEMIP's Trust Fund of approximately EUR 20-40 million was established at the end of 2004 to finance upstream technical assistance and risk capital operations in the region. It represents a efficient and effective tool, with which European Member States willing to demonstrate a particular interest for the development of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership can channel additional funds. The Trust Fund partly complements resources available under the FEMIP's Technical Assistance Support Fund, which was created in 2003 and became fully operational in 2004. The aim of FEMIP Technical Assistance Support Fund is to help promoters in the Mediterranean region improve project preparation and implementation. An overall amount of EUR 105 million will be provided from the EU MEDA budget to the FEMIP Technical Assistance Support Fund in the period 2003-2006.

On the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona Process and in its first year of operation following reinforcement, FEMIP is providing strong support for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Grants advance under FEMIP's Technical Assistance Fund in the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) totalled EUR 13.8 million.

FEMIP's sector objectives were met in 2004 with over a third of lending - EUR 760 million - going towards supporting direct private sector development in the region. Lending for transport, energy and environment amounted to EUR 660 million, EUR 580 million and EUR 190 million respectively. In 2004 FEMIP signed, in Morocco, its first social housing loan in the Mediterranean Region.

The range of FEMIP's financial instruments has been enlarged with the establishment at the end of the year of the FEMIP Trust Fund. Its first EUR 200 000 grant operation for a study to improve the efficiency of workers' remittances has been approved.

During 2004, its first full year of operations, the FEMIP Technical Assistance Fund signed 20 contracts for a total of EUR 13.8 million in grants with consultancy specialists for studies on increasing the efficiency of investments in environment (EUR 6.7 million, 48%), private sector (EUR 5.8 million, 42%), infrastructure (EUR 1.2 million, 9%) and human capital (EUR 0.1 million, 1%) in the MPCs.

To strengthen local coordination with the authorities, borrowers, the banking sector and lenders in the MPCs, FEMIP inaugurated its office in Tunis in December 2004. This is its second office in the region, after Cairo, which has been inaugurated in 2003. A third office in Rabat will be opened this year.

This confirms FEMIP's position as a major player in promoting the region's economic development and stability, and marks FEMIP's contribution to the Barcelona process.

FEMIP is a major step forward in financial and economic cooperation between the Union and the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs). Since its establishment in Barcelona in 2002, it has foreseen a total lending up to EUR 8-10 billion in the MPCs by 2006. Its top priority is to promote and support private sector development (especially SMEs and FDI) and facilitate projects helping to establish a favourable 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.