Earlier today the Board of the European Investment Bank approved more than EUR 10.5 billion of new financing for innovation, resource efficiency, education, water infrastructure and sustainable transport, as well as small business investment, across Europe and around the world. The approval of 26 new projects backed by the EFSI guarantee under the Investment Plan for Europe brought the total related investment to over EUR 162 billion, well over half the EUR 315 billion target set for the end of 2018.
The shareholders of the European Investment Bank also approved the EIB Group’s first ever Gender Strategy that will strengthen the impact on gender equality of EIB lending and support for projects that increase the economic participation of women.
“At the end of a difficult year for Europe, the EIB Group has delivered on its challenging commitments. After little over a year since the start of the Investment Plan for Europe, we have financed projects that will mobilise well over 50% of the additional investment the plan is supposed to generate in three years. This is a tremendous success. We have done so while exceeding the EIB Group’s overall investment targets, in particular on SMEs, responding to local needs across Europe and beyond. We have also continued to contribute to innovation, and remained the single largest source of financing for climate action.” said Werner Hoyer, European Investment Bank President.
Empowering women to support sustainability around the world The Board also approved the EIB Group’s Gender Strategy aimed at embedding gender equality in the Group’s activities. The strategy covers EIB lending, blending and advisory activity both inside and outside the European Union. The Gender Strategy will take effect in January 2017. It will support the protection of women’s and girls’ rights, enable the EIB to increase its positive impact on gender equality, and help focus support on projects that increase the participation of women in the labour market and economy.
Werner Hoyer said, “There is abundant evidence to show that gender equality and the economic empowerment of women leads to faster economic development, increased competitiveness, and more prosperous communities. That in turn helps to create to more efficient and effective businesses, better management of our natural resources and overall more socially cohesive and stable societies. I welcome this important decision by our board today. It will ensure the EU’s Bank has better tools at its disposal to address discrimination and boost inclusive growth by empowering women.“
Today’s approval was welcomed by the EC Commissioner in charge of gender equality and anti-discrimination policy, Věra Jourova who said: "The EU Bank and the European Investment Fund are taking an important step towards protecting women’s and girls’ rights and on operations that will empower women economically."
Following implementation of the new gender strategy the EIB will identify targeted investment opportunities that increase female participation and support economic empowerment, access to employment and support female entrepreneurs.
Strengthening innovation and research across Europe Today’s board meeting approved EUR 1.2 billion for new investment to strengthen Europe’s knowledge economy. This included new investment to expand facilities at nine public universities across Greece, support for cutting edge neurology and genetics research in Cyprus, and to expand university research and teaching facilities in Rome.
The EIB also approved new corporate financing of innovation to improve medical technology in Germany, the use of membrane cells in Spain, and the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Italy.
Funding for innovation included initiatives to modernise food production and related innovation in Austria and Hungary, improving the health impact of dairy products in Finland, improving anti-allergy treatment in Denmark, and developing new steel products in France, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic.
Reducing energy use and improving energy infrastructure
Reflecting the European Investment Bank’s leading global role supporting climate related investment the bank’s shareholders approved new lending totalling EUR 1.9 billion to enable more efficient use of energy and other natural resources and energy.
Following today’s meeting the EIB expects to support new schemes that will improve the construction of energy efficient buildings in France, enhance the provision of energy efficient social housing in Scotland, expand district heating networks in Italy, back adaptation of municipal buildings in Romania to reduce energy use, and continue support for near-zero energy buildings in Sweden.
New projects to increase the provision of hydrogen buses in France, support small scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Germany and strengthen sustainable forestry in Ireland were also approved.
Recognising the need to address the security of energy supply across Europe and beyond the board also approved financing of a new electricity interconnector between Norway and Germany, investment in local electricity networks in Finland and improving gas distribution in Italy, Romania, Moldova and Northern Ireland.
Backing continued investment in crucial infrastructure Across Europe significant investment is needed in key national and local infrastructure. Reflecting these specific needs the EIB board approved support for new investment in strategic infrastructure totalling EUR 3.3 billion. This includes new financing for sustainable transport in Spain and France, improvements to ports in Spain and Italy, backed new railway investment in Italy, Montenegro, Poland and Turkey and new roads in Poland.
Proposed new investment to improve water distribution in Hamburg, Romania and the Dutch province of Brabant were also supported.
Reflecting acute housing needs the board also backed plans to finance new social housing developments in Ireland, the United Kingdom and in Italy. New EIB financing will also improve agricultural storage and logistics facilities across Ukraine.
Ensuring that companies across Europe can expand Recognising the crucial role played by small business to create jobs and grasp new opportunities the EIB board approved more than EUR 2.5 billion of new support for SME lending by local banks and financial institution partners.
This will build on the success of the existing trade finance facility in Greece and also support new SME lending in 15 European countries. Outside Europe new lending programmes will support private sector investment in Argentina, Ethiopia, Turkey and East Africa.
New EIB lending under the Investment Plan for Europe New support for a total of 26 schemes, representing more than EUR 2.6 billion of new lending supported by the EU Budget guarantee under the Investment Plan for Europe, were given the go-ahead. These included SME lending with local banks, sustainable transport, cross border electricity interconnection, corporate innovation and water investment. New lending backed by the joint EIB-European Commission EFSI guarantee will support investment in 22 EU member states and Norway.
The board meeting included representatives of the bank’s 28 EU member state shareholders, as well as the European Commission.
This week’s EIB board meeting follows a meeting of the EFSI Investment Committee, held on 8 December. It approved 26 transactions which the Investment Committee had cleared for financing under the Investment Plan for Europe guarantee from the EU Budget. Projects approved by the EFSI committee may be submitted to the next or future EIB board meetings.
Negotiations for the approved loans are expected to be finalised in the coming months. All projects, including those earmarked for support under the EU budget guarantee, need to receive approval of the EIB Board prior to loan contracts being finalised. Loans and guarantees approved by the Board of Directors will be finalised in cooperation with promoters and beneficiaries, and figures may vary.
The EIB Group Gender Strategy will come into force in January 2017. A Gender Action Plan to implement the Strategy will be developed over the course of that same year, and will define specific milestones, prioritisation and phasing of activities across the Bank and the Fund.
The Gender Strategy seeks to increase the impact of the Group’s actions on gender equality by focusing on three strategic objectives, whilst recognising regional and sectoral specificities in the Group’s portfolio:
“Protect”: To protect women’s rights and avoid doing harm or reinforcing pre-existing gender inequalities. This will be addressed through the systematic consideration of gender-specific needs, impacts, vulnerabilities and barriers in the EIB’s environmental and social due diligence, where experts would include attention to gendered impacts and gender-tailored mitigation measures. The EIB will require that its clients and promoters consider gender risks in the application of its standards, analysing the project’s gender dimensions, conducting gender-balanced stakeholder engagement and, where risks are identified, proposing alternative measures.
“Impact”: To avoid gender discrimination in the ability to access the assets, benefits and opportunities generated by EIB Group operations, thus increasing the positive impact of EIB Group operations on gender equality. This would be achieved by applying a gender perspective in the EIB Group investment and/or project cycle and by working with willing clients and promoters that actively support the promotion of gender equality in the workplace, in job creation and in decision-making. Building the Group’s staff capacity and disseminating good practices will be essential. The establishment of dedicated technical assistance may be needed to support the design and implementation of projects with a high potential for positive gender equality impact.
“Invest”: To reduce gender gaps in employment and promote women’s economic empowerment, relevant services across the EIB and EIF would work to identify relevant targeted investment opportunities and markets that increase women’s participation, on equal terms, in the economy and labour market, e.g. focusing on increasing women’s access to credit and financial services, and supporting female entrepreneurship. This will build on the EIB Group experience and existing products and should lead to the introduction of new and dedicated approaches.
Examples of how the EIB Group promotes female economic empowerment around the world:
The EIB has launched SheInvest, a new initiative to boost gender equality and female economic empowerment. The aim is to mobilise EUR 1 billion of investment that can benefit millions of women across Africa with better access to finance and by making sustainable infrastructure services and products work for them. This initiative was launched simultaneously at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg and at the EIB headquarters in Luxembourg.
Today advocates for gender equality and experts from the banking and finance sectors have been meeting senior representatives from the EIB in Luxembourg on how the EIB Group’s newly approved Gender Action Plan can best serve the promotion of gender equality in all its activities.
CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), are joining forces under the 2X Climate Finance Task Force to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate finance investments.