The Greek Deputy Minister of Development, Stavros Kalafatis, visited the European Investment Bank’s headquarters in Luxembourg today for talks with EIB Vice-President Plutarchos Sakellaris.  During the meeting, the discussion centred on items of mutual interest. Mr Kalafatis emphasized Greece’s interest in vigorously pursuing financing possibilities for smaller companies, including microcredit. The discussions focused on all productive sectors, especially high-tech and innovative enterprises.

Progressing towards a knowledge economy is a primary objective for the Greek Government. Greece is currently undertaking EUR 3.2 billion of public spending for a competitiveness programme based on innovation and entrepreneurship.

On the occasion EIB Vice-President Plutarchos Sakellaris said: “I am particularly pleased today, as the visit of Minister Kalafatis marks even closer cooperation and coordination between the EIB and the Greek authorities in support of the private sector and especially SMEs in Greece. For promoting SME finance in Greece, we have traditionally worked with the banking sector as we do for all countries, and we appreciate the interest of the Greek Government in increased and coordinated action for best results. The EIB’s initiative and key role in the present circumstances was welcomed at the ECOFIN meeting last week.  Additional EIB finance will be vigorously provided for SMEs and other key sectors particularly hit by the current slowdown, such as infrastructure, climate change mitigation and energy. This will lead to additional lending of up to EUR 31.2 billion in 2009-2010 for the whole of the EU, increasing our annual investments to EUR 60 - 65 billion from the 2007 level of EUR 48 billion and triggering an increase in our subscribed capital from EUR 165 to EUR 232 billion in 2009”.

Background information

The European Investment Bank (EIB) promotes European objectives and finances European projects, thereby stimulating capital investment aimed at modernising the economies of the Member States and the countries close to the Union. In 2007, the EIB lent a total of EUR 47.8 billion. Finance for the EU-27 Member States represented 87% of its activities and amounted to EUR 41.4 billion. To fund its activities, the EIB raised an aggregate amount of EUR 55 billion on the international capital markets through 236 bond issues in 23 currencies. Owned by the Member States, the EIB (with its AAA rating) is the world’s largest supranational issuer. It was created under the Treaty of Rome along with other European Union institutions and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  The Bank’s priority objectives include SMEs. In 2007, the EIB’s lending in Greece totalled EUR 0.8 billion. This went to transport, SMEs and, for the first time ever in Greece, local authorities (Municipality of Athens and Kozani).There are some 23 million SMEs in the European Union (EU), accounting for over 99% of all enterprises and contributing up to 80% of employment in some industrial sectors. The EIB Group’s SME activity benefited more than 162 000 SMEs in 2007, with a specific focus on innovative SMEs with high growth potential, small renewable energy schemes promoted by SMEs, and micro-enterprises. EIB support was provided through lines of credit totalling some EUR 5 billion, granted to its intermediaries throughout the European Union.

The European Investment Bank Group has launched a three-year pilot programme to encourage both banks and non-bank financial institutions to provide loans to very small companies and people seeking to become self-employed who are cut off from traditional bank finance because they lack adequate credit histories due to unemployment or immigration. The aim is to provide both funding and technical assistance to promising micro-finance institutions (MFIs).

The European Investment Fund, part of EIB Group, and in which the EIB is the majority shareholder, will be managing a EUR 50 million, three-year pilot facility to promote micro-finance in the European Union using both EIB and EU budget funds. The Joint Action to Support Micro-Finance Institutions in Europe, or “JASMINE”, should be operational early in 2009.

Under this initiative, the EIB will match each euro committed by private banks to micro-credit up to a maximum EUR 20 million, thereby mobilising EUR 40 million for the sector. In addition, the European Commission, with the support of the European Parliament, is set to grant the European Investment Fund around EUR 10 million in technical assistance to manage the initiative.

  • A micro-enterprise is defined as a company with fewer than 10 employees
  • A typical micro-credit loan is EUR 7 000-8 000, although levels vary across the EU Member States
  • According to the European Commission, there is short-term potential in the EU-27 for 700 000 micro-credit loans, totalling EUR 6.2 billion
  • The three largest micro-finance institutions (MFIs) in Europe are currently Adie (France), Finnvera (Finland) and Fundusz Mikro (Poland)
  • The EIF hopes the initiative will lead to the creation and development of some 15 MFIs across the EU providing micro-credit

JASMINE will sit alongside the JEREMIE, JESSICA and JASPERS programmes already set up by the EIB Group with the support of EU budgetary funds.

EIB response to current economic situation
(All amounts in EUR bn)
Period covered Annual EIB group support EIB group support 2008-2011
Existing Additional Total Existing Additional Total
SMEs 2008 - 2011 5.0 2.5 7.5 20.0 10.0 30.0
Mid-caps 2009 - 2010 - 1.0 1.0 - 2.0 2.0