Check against delivery
It is such a pleasure to participate in this event, which is also my first public speech in Brussels as President of the European Investment Bank Group, and to be joined by colleagues like Vice-President Czerwińska and EIF Chief Executive Marjut Falkstedt, who have participated in this event earlier and expressed the importance that we give to InvestEU.
I am particularly moved to talk about InvestEU, because it is a symbol of our partnership — and it is a very successful programme, funded by the European budget, that is ensuring that we can fund projects that are strategic for our present and our future throughout the EU. I’m talking about transport infrastructure and urban mobility, energy and water, digitalisation, innovation, healthcare, affordable housing, education, and support to SMEs. All those issues have been dealt with throughout the journey.
I am particularly, and personally, happy to share this success because I was already around back in 2014 when the embryo of InvestEU, the Juncker Plan, EFSI, was created. I just discussed with at the time Commissioner Jyrki Katainen and we were remembering what an unprecedented programme it was, in many ways. First of all, because of its ambition: to mobilise more than €300 billion in investment over three years. It was also unprecedent because it was the first time we would talk about “leverage”, using guarantee strongly supported by the European Parliament. Using guarantees from the EU budget with the EIB Group could provide funding. It was also unprecedented because it was based on a close partnership between the Commission and the EIB, and between the public and the private sector.
The Investment Plan mobilised more than €500 billion in investments, and this successful model was the basis for InvestEU, the umbrella mandate to the EIB to mobilise investments for more than €372 billion under the 2021-2027 budget.
In the period since we signed the new partnership agreement with the European Commission in March 2022, we have already approved deals for €24 billion backed by InvestEU guarantees, so we are actually on track to reach the ambitious target.
This reflects InvestEU’s amazing capacity to support our economy, our households and our businesses.
We are talking about impactful projects that we are signing every week, that make a real difference and prove that even our heaviest and energy-dependent industries can thrive and innovate, as we transition to the net-zero economy that should be our future endeavour and objective.
Let me give you some examples of recent weeks:
- In Sweden, these investments are helping produce steel, made here, in Europe, with nearly zero emissions, and also we are expanding Europe’s first circular battery gigafactory.
- In Italy and in the Netherlands, thanks to InvestEU, we are creating new ways of storing energy, without the need for rare minerals – and use only the abundantly available materials.
- In 2023, we bankrolled the deployment of early cancer detection equipment in Poland and innovative bone therapies developed here in Belgium.
So when someone asks “what does the EU do for me,” and many people will ask this heading towards the EP elections, InvestEU and the investment we are funding are a good response.
Supporting these kind of cutting-edge solutions and technological innovations, reinforces Europe’s strategic autonomy. They will allow our economies to thrive without destroying the planet and without making us dependent on external suppliers.
This is very important when we are asked “what can Europe do for us” and what we should do in the future.
The other feeling I had when looking back at InvestEU and thinking of its success, is a feeling of confidence. We should be confident in our ability to respond to challenges, our resilience and determination. We have powerful tools and instruments to rise up to today’s challenges. And the EIB group has a key role to play, I think, in shaping a better future.
The results of last year, which we are presenting today, are a good example in this regard. I am happy to share with you today the EIB’s 2023 annual results, which are really outstanding, with funding agreements for €88 billion to support our common priorities: investing in sustainable physical infrastructure, research, innovation and digitalisation; SMEs and medium-sized enterprises; and also social infrastructures, such as health, education and skills.
The EIB Group financing in 2023 is expected to mobilise around €320 billion in investment, reaching 400,000 companies and supporting 5.4 million jobs. These are impressive numbers and results.
€20 billion went to EU’s small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. This is largely thanks to the European Investment Fund, the EIB Group specialised provider of risk finance, which is also doing a great job in scaling up start-ups, particularly in disruptive technologies through the European Tech Champions Initiative, which has already mobilised €1 billion in projects thanks to the dedicated contributions of Member States.
Well over half of our financing last year – a record €49 billion – was deployed for climate action and environmental sustainability. This is an increase of more than €10 billion on the 2022 figure. And we are on track to deliver on our promise to support €1 trillion in investment this decade to support the green transition.
This is not just necessary to protect our land, our waters, and the air we breathe from pollution and the planet’s overheating. It is also essential for Europe to eliminate its dependence on a handful of fossil-fuel exporters.
I can safely say the EIB has consolidated its brand as The Climate Bank, both inside and outside the EU.
Crucially, this must be a Union where we leave no one behind. Almost half of our lending inside the EU last year (46%) was channelled into cohesion regions. We are investing into state-of-the-art production plants, creating high-skills jobs in less favoured regions, from Northern Greece to Bulgaria.
Our work is not showing only what we can do inside our Union, but also throughout the word.
In a year marked by uncertainty and conflict, EIB Global – our arm for operations outside the EU – provided more than €8.4 billion for projects outside the European Union.
This includes support for Ukraine and financing for the world’s least developed countries and fragile states. I would like to highlight the important role of the EIB now – and it will be even more important going forward – to provide financial support for Ukraine. Our support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion now amounts to more than €2 billion, and the upcoming discussions in the European Council are going to be of the essence to ensure that we continue to have all the tools available to support Ukraine.
Beyond specific projects, I am always moved by the global endeavours to which we contribute, like the financing of vaccine production facilities in Africa, reinforcing also resilience and health sustainability throughout the world.
So when our partners across the globe ask about the role of the EU and what is Europe’s view as to where the world should be heading, again, I think that these concrete projects and examples are a good response and a good example of North-South cooperation, which is so vital from a geopolitical point of view.
One of my key priorities taking the helm of the EIB Group is closer cooperation and engagement with the European Commission, the European Parliament, with our shareholders, Member States; with our fellow national and multilateral development banks. Engagement at every level – from heads of government and Commissioners, to the officers and staff working on the ground I think is of the essence.
And I want to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly thank the teams – at the EIB, the European Commission and throughout the institutions – are working day and night to make these projects make a reality. They are really making a difference on the ground.
Because, at the end of the day, we need to develop these partnerships, we have to join forces, we need to work together.
We should never forget, we are all on the same Team.
So ahead of next week’s meeting of EU leaders here in Brussels, I want to voice my strong agreement with Commissioner Gentiloni’s impassioned call, opening this event, to nurture powerful instruments, such as InvestEU or Next Generation EU, that are supporting Europe’s investment needs.
Because only a coordinated, well-designed response can allow us rise to the challenges we are facing.
The European Investment Bank Group will do its part. We are absolutely committed to be a key partner for EU institutions and as the financial arm of the EU to deliver results on the ground to the benefit of our companies, our economies our citizens.
Together we can make a difference.
Let me close on this positive note and congratulations for the success of the InvestEU programme and this very interesting conference