The conference is part of a series of initiatives by Eurobank EFG to inform stakeholders of Local Authorities and the general public on the possibilities of cooperation between private sector organisations and the Local Authorities. Speakers at the conference were top level representatives of the Greek government, the European Commission, the EIB, Eurobank EFG, and the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE).

Opening the conference, Mr. Nicholas Nanopoulos Chief Executive Officer, Eurobank EFG group, said: “Eurobank EFG’s interest in provoking public dialogue on contemporary issues regarding the Economy & Society. One of these issues is the function of the Local Authorities, their cooperation with the government, as well as the Banking System aiming to offer upgraded services to the people”. “Private Sector’s contribution in this may prove crucial. This is due to the fact that the financial sector can offer not only additional funds, but also specialised knowledge, greater effectiveness in investing and managing funds and finally offer greater incentives for the development of even more ambitious plans for Local Authorities. This in turn will assist the local communities to function as powerful poles in bringing and spreading the idea of development, something which in turn will leverage new resources and will result in new efforts from the Private Sector”.

Other speakers were P. Pavlopoulos, Minister of the Interior, Public Administration & Decentralisation, George Alogoskoufis Minister of Economy & Finance (on Video), Christos Folias Deputy Finance Minister & Paris Koukoulopoulos President of KEDKE.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Mrs Danuta Hübner E.U. Commissioner, responsible for Regional Policy, who stressed the need to promote the Lisbon targets for Economic & Social integration throughout Europe, as well as the role of local authorities towards achieving those targets. In this framework, the European Commission paid major emphasis in promoting innovation in all action plans & programmes. She said that among these programmes, of great importance are the coordination and the necessary initiatives for public resources to be mobilised, so as to operate and promote a multiplier effect for the employment of private capital aiming at the systematic promotion of the Lisbon targets. In this context, the cooperation with the EIB, EBRD, EIF will play an important role. Concluding her speech, Mrs Danuta Hübner mentioned the E.U. programmes JESSICA & JEREMIE which are under creation in cooperation with the EIB, as well as private funds dealing with SMEs & urban development.

Mr. Nikolaos Karamouzis Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Eurobank EFG group, said: “The ability of Local Authorities to meet the challenges of multiple roles depends mainly on securing the necessary funds when needed, employing investment successfully and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles. The new financing needs of the Local Authorities will not be met by the traditional funding resource channels, such as State funding and regular or extraordinary revenues for Local Authorities. Local Authorities are called upon to invent new ways of operating and to utilise modern financial instruments in order to ensure the necessary resources, but also for the most effective use of the existing ones. In this context, Eurobank EFG has already established a special unit called: “Local Authorities Relationship Office”. The Local Authorities are an underexploited body of Economic growth and we want to contribute to their collective efforts to further develop their potentials”, Mr Karamouzis said.

Mr G. Genuardi Vice President of the European Investment Bank said in his speech on the role of EIB towards financing Local Authorities in the internal framework of E.U.: “During the period 2001 – 2006 EIB financed projects in European Cities amounting to a total of 17 billion. The aim of EIB is the low cost long term funding of projects that promote European Integration. He mentioned specific examples of projects financed in major European Municipalities and stressed the importance of further expanding the activities of EIB to other municipalities including smaller ones through the cooperation with local Banks. This Strategy, according to Mr Genuardi, will strengthen the effort to upgrade the quality of life in all regions of Greece, diffusing the benefits of European Integration to all Citizens”.

Mr. Alexandros Kritikos, Local Authorities Relationship Manager at Eurobank EFG, presented the opportunities of the Bank’s cooperation with Local Authorities through the creation of new Bank Products and integrated services. “The financing needs of Local Authorities can be covered through not only traditional lending but also through loans from EIB. They could also use other financial instruments such as Bonds, Leasing, Real Estate development, & the partnership between public & private sector (PPP). Additional benefits for Local Authorities could come from a more effective management of existing resources, automation of the payments/collection processes & the provision of an integrated spectrum of Banking tools to manage staff remunerations” Mr Kritikos said.

During the second session of the conference Mr Konstantinos Moussouroulis, Secretary General for Investment & Development, Ministry of Economy & Finance, elaborated on the new financing instruments that are available through the national strategic development programme for the enhancement of sustainable growth. He stressed the need for new effective management procedures and mentioned the increased peoples needs from the implementing entities, Local Authorities in particular, that ought to enrich their institutional role for more effective services and utilise the new opportunities to mobilise private funds.

Mr. Andreas Verykios, EIB Deputy General Director for Lending operations in the E.U., presented the activities of EIB in Greece saying that since 1981 total EIB financing in Greece, amounts to €16.8 billion. He presented the requirements, the forms & advantages of project financing by EIB as well as the kinds of investment that could be financed. He also described the process of a loan request from first contact with EIB, until its completion. He also stressed the significance EIB gives to its activities in Greece during the current period that the new E.U. programmes for cohesion countries are put in place. In this context the investments that can be financed at a Local Authorities’ level are of great importance to the EIB. The aim, according to Mr. Verykios, is to benefit the Greek country side and to become the frontrunner of growth in Greece, in the wider area of southeastern Europe.

The conference concluded with the presentation of Mr. Rallis Gkekas Scientific Advisor of KEDKE, who analysed the opportunities as well as requirements that Local Authorities have to use financial assistance. Additionally he presented data and information on the Local Authorities’ financial ability in relation with the use of these new financial instruments and tools.-