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Work programme 2015: Priority 1: The Juncker Investment Plan

European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has staked a lot of credibility on an ambitious €315bn scheme to boost private investment in European infrastructure projects throughout Europe as part of the new Work programme. The Plan is the top item in the new Commission's 2015 work programme (see above) presented on 16th December to MEPs meeting in Strasbourg.  The plan involves the launch the investment programme will total €21bn - that is, just €8bn of new EU cash, plus €8bn of existing EU budget funds and €5bn from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The rest is expected to come from private sector and Member States.  The European Investment Bank (EIB), which has a top AAA rating, will use the available money to provide guarantees to investors, the idea being that the EIB will cover the riskiest parts of any project. That is meant to reassure institutional investors and unlock some €315bn of private cash over three years. The Commission can only put up little cash upfront, as national leaders are aware that most voters will not stomach much new EU-level spending in these times of economic hardship and existing funds are committed as part of the EU next seven year package of funding through Structural Funds and the Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020. Meanwhile, the 28 Member States have submitted a huge wish list of projects totalling €1.3 trillion. There is an EU-wide need for better transport links, power grid connections, super-fast broadband, and school and hospital improvements. Some of those submissions are not eligible. A project must be a public-private partnership, not one that is 100% publicly funded. The Commission promises a rigorous cost-benefit analysis by investment professionals, in which growth potential - including job creation - will outweigh any special-interest lobbying. Critics of the scheme are concerned by the assumption of a 1 x 15 leverage in the fund, that national rivalries could get in the way and the fact that funds will focus on Eurozone countries only (only four Central and Eastern European Countries are members of the Eurozone).  The initiative should be set-up in the coming weeks and could start to deliver support for projects in 2015. READ MORE

Issue 38