The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group voted in favour of an initiative that seeks to turbo charge investment in Europe’s economy, but such a scheme will be pointless unless countries continue structural reforms that their economies need, ECR shadow rapporteur Richard Ashworth MEP, said today.
The so-called European Fund for Strategic Investment – often referred to as ‘The Juncker Plan’ was supported by the European Parliament this evening. It aims to use 21 billion euros of EU and European Investment Bank money to act as guarantees that could unlock up to 315 billion euros in investment in projects, infrastructure and small businesses over the next three years.
Mr Ashworth said that during talks between the parliament and national governments, ECR negotiating priorities were largely met such as ensuring that the fund does not increase the EU budget, that projects chosen for the scheme are commercially viable, and not chosen for political or geographical purposes, and protecting money used for key ‘primary research’ – projects that are not close to the marketplace and would risk funding cuts because of the fund.
Speaking after the vote, which means the fund can launch this summer, he said:
“This fund could work and encourage risk averse potential investors to put their money into Europe’s economy. There is money out there, but it is not being invested in growing Europe’s economy.
“We were clear that no extra taxpayers’ money could be used for this fund so all financing had to be found from existing budgets. We have made significant improvements to the plan throughout the talks with EU governments, ensuring that crucial frontline research projects were protected, and that investment decisions were made on a commercial basis rather than dominated by politics.
“We were disappointed that some of the funding is still coming from some research funding, and programmes aimed at connecting up Europe’s infrastructure. However, we have put in place safeguards for many crucial research programmes such as cancer research, and with the leveraging capacity this fund has we would hope that the net gain for research and infrastructure will be positive.
“We are not saying that this fund is guaranteed to work, but given the scale of Europe’s investment gap, it is worth a venture. However, this fund is not a permanent solution and can only work if accompanied by moves to remove the many barriers to investment, and whole scale structural reforms that make our economies more open and competitive. This is not a silver bullet, but it’s worth attempting.”