EIB President Nadia Calviño delivered her remarks at the 6th Annual Capital Markets Seminar. The event was co-organised with the European Stability Mechanism and the European Commission.


>@Vio Dudau/EIB

Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I think we've just seen Europe working fast, agile this morning and the very good interaction we have with the government of Luxembourg, our host, and I am so delighted to join today my good friends Gilles and Pierre in the introduction of the second day of the capital markets event, which I think has become one of the flagships of the year, marking some of the most relevant events that take place here and they're hosted by the European institutions. And I am also particularly happy to be able to engage physically with many of you here in the room and all those that are watching us online representing this capital markets audience. You were talking, indeed, you were saying I just joined the European Investment Bank on the first of January and since I joined, I've been devoting a lot of effort to engaging with our shareholders, the member states, and engaging with our key partners and stakeholders.

I have been traveling, 17 member states I have visited, so the second part of the year is going to take me to 10 more member states. Talking to the Minister from Luxembourg is much easier. We see each other quite often. And there are two key messages that I'm getting from our shareholders.

First, that the European Investment Bank Group as the financial arm of the EU is called to play a key role in contributing to close Europe's investment gap and making sure that we make the green and digital transitions a European success.

And the second key message is the massive and the impressive alignment of priorities. All member states, all finance ministers have identified the same key issues, which are the top priorities for Europe and, thus, the top priorities for the EIB. And as president of the institution, my aim is to deploy the institutions full potential, supporting European member states and the European institutions to improve the competitiveness of our economies and the lives of European citizens.

This means boosting growth, social and territorial cohesion, supporting Europe's leadership in the twin green and digital transitions, increasing Europe's competitiveness, productivity, strategic autonomy and economic security. And, internationally, this means continuing to be a force for good in the world, building partnerships, enhancing north-south dialogue, and strategically directing our investments to defend our core values and priorities. I was yesterday in the Vatican, actually I was telling Pierre and Gilles, talking to the Pope and participating in a very intense and very interesting exchange with some of the world's key leaders in the area of sovereign debt to see how to tackle the service of the debt burden for most-vulnerable countries around the world. And these priorities and these objectives are translating into eight top areas for action.

First, with over 50% of our investments in the green transition, I think that we have consolidated our position as the climate bank, both inside and outside the EU.

It is not something that is nice-to-have in the future, thinking about the youngest generation, it is a top priority for Europe now, as we have painfully discovered due to the war. We cannot continue to depend on fossil fuel producers around the world. We need to become autonomous, we need to reinforce our resilience in the area of energy and thus, the green transition, it is an urgent priority for all of us now. And I am quite sure that beyond our massive investments in grids, interconnectors, storage capacity, etc., I am persuaded that the EIB Group is already financing the breakthrough technology that will lead to an affordable and efficient green transition that will make a difference in tackling climate change and scaling up also existing technologies to make this a European success, as I already said. I'm quite convinced of that because throughout history what I see is that the EIB has been key in financing the breakthrough moments in our history. Most recently, we had financed the company that then developed the COVID vaccine that you all know is this mRNA technology, BioNTech.

So, I think that our institution has a very good instinct and so good technical skills that we're good at identifying what are the breakthrough technologies we should support to push and to drive Europe's progress.

And this is why our second priority is accelerating technological innovation and digitalisation. And this means investing in the whole value chain, including critical raw materials, critical inputs that are essential for the development of these new technologies.

Third, following a mandate from the European leaders, the EIB Group is stepping up support to Europe's security and defence industry, while safeguarding of course, the group's financing capacity and higher environmental, social, and governance standards. We are actually already implementing a security and defence industry action plan to support peace and security in Europe and beyond. And this plan is following very intense engagement with key stakeholders and financial markets to calibrate our actions. And I have to thank here the teams led by Cyril Rousseau that have been doing such a great job in ensuring that we are able to step up our support for Europe's security and defence industry, while safeguarding our very strong financing capacity.

Our fourth priority is contributing to a modern cohesion policy. This is within our statutory mandate. Around 45% of investments are made in less-advanced regions and I am convinced that it is of the essence that we take care of the regions because investments happen in a place and we need to make sure that all citizens around Europe have access to the opportunities of the new green and digital economy.

Our fifth priority is reinforcing our support for agriculture and the bioeconomy and developing innovative instruments also in this area.

Sixth priority, social infrastructure. And this means sustainable and affordable housing, a top priority, I know, for the finance minister of Luxembourg, as is the case for finance ministers all across the EU, as this is one of the challenges that we share on our continent. This is also investment into education, healthcare. These social infrastructures are at the heart of our societies, are at the heart of the European way of life.

Seventh priority, focusing our activities outside the EU on impact. Right now, our top priority is of course Ukraine, supporting Ukraine. Next week, I will be participating in the conference that takes place in Berlin and I hope to be able to already sign a number of agreements with Prime Minister Shmyhal or Minister Marchenko to continue to support Ukraine, focusing on investments in large national infrastructures, energy and transport, local infrastructures, schools, hospitals, rebuilding homes that have been destroyed due to the war. Third, supporting the private sector and in particular Ukraine's SMEs. And finally, technical assistance, which is of the essence to build capacities in the country also. Of course, outside our priorities, Ukraine, enlargement and neighbourhood, Africa and the Global Gateway strategic priorities of the European Union in the rest of the world will guide directions in our investments outside the EU. 

Last, but not least, and you were all waiting for this, pioneering the capital markets union. In this forum, I think I don't need to explain how, by its very existence, the EIB is a capital market union project.

We mobilise international capital markets under our European signature to deliver projects in all member states beyond the limits of a fragmented national market and domestic commercial banking capacities, acting as a bridge between capital markets and the real economy. And I think the EIB has been an outstandingly successful investment of European member states throughout its history.

Now, there are four areas that we will be looking into to pioneer the deeper, broader capital markets union. First, scaling up equity investments. Last year, we launched the European Tech Champions Initiative, which is an innovative fund of funds that uses public money from the EIB and from some member states that are contributing, to channel capital to large venture capital funds to support our innovators, our entrepreneurs in their growth when significant amounts of capital are necessary and to reduce the dependency in foreign capital. And it has proved so successful that the Eurogroup has asked us to build on this experience. And so we are looking at other opportunities for public-private investment structures which could support the growth of the EU's scale-ups, improve their exit environment, make sure that our successful start-ups and scale-ups remain European. We cannot just do this with public money. We need to ensure that we mobilize, that we leverage our capacities and mobilise private investment. The European Tech Champions Initiative has already committed to three funds, investing in tech scale-ups in Europe for a total of €600 million has a pipeline of funds at advanced stage of approval. I will not mention the names, I'm not going to do this here, but I think you all know which are the funds that already have got our financing and are in the pipeline. And we are targeting in particular the areas of information and communication technology and life sciences, areas where Europe certainly has the capacity and should scale up. To date, 14 companies in five member states have been supported by the European Tech Champions Initiative, in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. And so, we see how through our instruments leveraging public and private capital, we can contribute to a deeper, broader European capital markets union and support the scaling-up of successful European start-ups.

Second area of work, the EIB Group will build on our long-standing leadership in green finance, a point that also the Minister has mentioned. After all, we were the first to issue a green bond in 2007 and since then, we have issued climate awareness bonds and sustainability awareness bonds worth €93 billion in 23 different currencies. And this makes us the largest multilateral development institution to issue use-of-proceeds, green and sustainability bonds. We are aligning our methodology to the new framework established by the EU Taxonomy and with the forthcoming European green bond standard. I think standardized information is a core condition for fair competition. We need to avoid greenwashing. We want to have bonds of the highest top quality and that should also allow us to have an efficient pricing of alternatives that maybe are not so highly qualified. And this I think, would also be a very important area to pioneer with the view to reinforcing Europe's capital markets. And of course, beyond our issuing, we are also providing technical assistance to clients, within the European Union and beyond. And we have been developing a green bond purchasing program, which I think is also a promising avenue. This area of green bonds was one of the ones that was discussed yesterday when talking about also the rest of the world and supporting finance for most-vulnerable countries, most directly affected by climate change. So we want to involve all of you, market participants, in seeing the potential and developing the potential of this green bond market in Europe.

Third, very much aligned, green asset-backed securities that could also contribute to funding sustainable projects and also develop an attractive new asset for investors, for savers across the EU ecosystem. A pan-European platform maybe would lower entry barriers for smaller banks. We could also see about putting together efficient financial advisory support to standardise issuance and foster innovation, promoting best practices in green financing across the EU. And of course, allowing to close the massive gap between the needs and the availabilities in terms of green finance.

And finally, we see value and potential in exploring a fourth avenue, which is digital and blockchain technologies to accelerate the integration of EU capital markets. The EIB Group has pioneered the digital bond market. We launched four digital bonds between 2021 and 2023, experimenting with different technologies, financial engineering features, legal frameworks, and we see potential in the ongoing work with European central banks and the European Central Bank and the Eurozone central banks and of course the ESM, the European Stability Mechanism, to see where is the potential for this digital euro going forward.

Let me close with a more general reflection. You have heard our eight top priorities. You see how the different European institutions are working together to try to continue to make Europe an area of peace, also an area of prosperity, innovation, leading the technological revolution that is going on in the world.

And this brought me to think, when formulating the ideas beyond the single market, Jacques Delors spoke of a Europe built on “competition that stimulates, cooperation that strengthens, and solidarity that unites”. And as we are running up to the elections this week, I think it is very good to remember these ideas because they are at the heart of our daily actions within the European institutions. In such a complex geopolitical context, I think we need to be united as Europeans and we need to be reminded on a daily basis of the value that Europe brings. The EIB Group is a powerful instrument to deliver European solutions at home and around the world, because actually what we are doing, we are putting Europe's capital to work, financial capital, human capital, all our talent and intelligence and capabilities throughout the EU.

We are putting this capital to work and I think we are meeting the expectations of European citizens and businesses. This is what we aim for now with the capital market union, and this is actually what underlies everything else we do. Let me leave you with this idea, I wish you a very productive journey and thank you very much.