Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Project wishlist for Juncker plan worth €1.3 trillion

  • Member states are likely to push for 'geographic balance' in how projects are funded (Photo: Ken Teegardin)

Member states have filed some 2,000 projects they consider eligible for the €315bn investment scheme announced by Jean-Claude Juncker, according to a draft report by the EU commission and the European Investment Bank seen by EUobserver.

The investment scheme - which hopes to "leverage" money fifteen-fold, based on €8bn from the EU budget - is supposed to target the riskiest parts of projects and thereby attract public and private investors who would otherwise not chip in.

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The 73-page report on what kind of investments should be selected under the new scheme is accompanied by a 610-page list of projects submitted by each country.

The list is a collection of national pet projects, ranging from highways to schools, from gas interconnectors to laser or mushroom research.

France sent its list in French, while all the other countries have translated it into English. Belgium has the longest submission: 100 pages, broken down on priorities, the national and regional level. Spain only submitted half a page with no detailed projects, claiming €25 million for 'energy union' projects and €11 million on 'knowledge economy'.

Sweden also kept its contribution brief - two pages - but gave more details than Spain, mostly on transport and energy projects. Portugal's list is only half readable while Malta went through the trouble of inserting pictures of harbours and ruins.

In a disclaimer, the EIB and the commission say they had a very short deadline and so were "not able to screen the submissions by member states in detail."

The report was prepared for a meeting by EU finance ministers on Tuesday (9 December) who will have a first discussion on the Juncker plan.

Some ministers are expected to fight for promises that their countries will get a share of the funding, which is a mix of EU guarantees and yet-to-be-found private and public investments.

When it presented the plan, the EU commission said money should not be earmarked per country, but awarded to projects based on their "quality", with an independent board within the EIB making the ultimate selection.

A German source on Monday said Berlin supports the commission's view. "We don't want this 'geographical balance' debate, we think quality of projects should come first," the source said.

But other diplomats point out that if countries are asked to contribute to the fund, they will demand that some of the money is earmarked for them.

So far no country has publicly announced to contribute to the "European Strategic Investment Fund", which has yet to be set up.

But as national contributions will not be counted in 'excessive deficit' calculations, it is possible for Italy (which has in the past made strong demands that investment spending be excluded) and other countries to announce a contribution at an EU summit next week.

Ministers will have to approve the legislation to create the new fund within the EIB by June 2015. But despite the EU commission's attempts to keep politics out of it, member states are likely to tweak the rules to allow for national pet projects to get funded.

"It reminds me about the funds in Horizon 2020 [EU-funded science projects] where we always have the discussion between 'excellence' and 'geographical balance' as a criterion," one EU official told this website.

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