Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

EP gives final approval to investment fund

  • The EIB has earmarked R&D among first projects (Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory)

The European Parliament gave overwhelming approval to the creation of a European investment fund in a plenary vote on Wednesday evening (24 June).

It passed by 464 votes, against 131, with 19 abstentions.

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The fund is the European Commission's flagship programme to create jobs and get the European economy back on the road.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker proposed it soon after he took office in November last year.

Six months later, MEPs and national governments negotiators reached a compromise on the details of the instrument, paving the way for Wednesday’s final approval.

The fund, which is hoped to trigger €315 billion in investments, is based on a €16 billion guarantee from the EU, and €5 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

One sticking point was where the guarantee money would come from.

The commission proposed taking €6 billion from two existing EU funds: Horizon 2020 (for research & development), and Connecting Europe Facility (for infrastructure).

MEPs were against this idea, but only managed to lower the contribution from those two funds by €1 billion.

Centre-left Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt defended the compromise as an “honourable” one, but said it's “very painful” that the investment fund will still take €5 billion out of the two existing projects.

“You must bear in mind that next year and future years, we are going to drive a very hard bargain, because we want that money back”, she added.

Budget commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said the fund had to be set up in a “very tight budget environment” and needs “very tough trade-offs”.

Finnish Liberal MEP Nils Torvalds said that while the commission and the parliament “share the same values”, this was not true for the EU Council, the body representing member states.

“Georgieva said she'll turn every stone to find money. As soon as she finds something, the greedy hand of the council will try to get that money. … The very first problem we had with the process was that there was no new money, no way of getting the member states out of their corner”, noted Torvalds.

Jobs commissioner Jyrki Katainen, who has been touring the EU the past months to sell the fund idea, also praised the speed between the dates of proposal and adoption.

“I would like to spread the same spirit of 'delivering fast' to [other] areas," he said, referring to plans for a digital single market and an energy union.

Belgium's Van Brempt isn't the only MEP with gripes against the Juncker fund.

German far-left MEP Fabio De Masi called it a “placebo” for “sick man Europe”.

Italian MEP Marco Zanni, of the eurosceptic Five Star Movement, said the fund “is socialising the losses and privatising the profits”.

For its part, the EIB has already earmarked money for four projects: in the healthcare R&D sector in Spain; for an airport in Croatia; for 14 healthcare centres in Ireland; and for a steel pipe company in Italy.

Katainen previously said that, if things go well, the fund should be “up and running” in autumn.

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