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EU Plan to Support Small-Scale Industries

EU Plan to Support Small-Scale  Industries EU Plan to Support Small-Scale  Industries

New EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled on Wednesday (Nov 26) an eagerly awaited 315-billion-euro ($393b) investment plan to “kickstart” the economy, saying it would show the world that Europe was back in business after years of crisis.

Juncker said the proposal, which must be approved by European leaders at a summit in December, would mix an investment fund with a scheme to match new projects with private money, AFP reported.

“Europe needs a kickstart and today the commission is providing the jump cable,” Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “We need to send a message to Europe and to the rest of the world: Europe is back in business.”

The new European Fund for Strategic Investment will be funded to the tune of 21 billion euros, but Juncker said its work will have a net effect on the economy of 15 times that, about 315 billion euros.

He said that small and medium sized enterprises must be freed from “burdensome regulation”.

The plan is the cornerstone of Juncker’s five-year agenda to revive the EU’s moribund economy, which has failed to grow since the financial crisis and is mired in mass unemployment and near-deflation.

  Promises

When he took office on November 1, Juncker had promised to unveil the plan by Christmas so that it could be up and running as soon as possible amid renewed global concerns over Europe. “I promised to present an ambitious investment package by Christmas. Today Christmas has come early.”

The former Luxembourg prime minister rejected criticisms that the fund contains no new money and only re-engineers existing funds.

“I often hear what we need is so-called fresh money but what I believe we need is a fresh start and fresh investment,” Juncker said, speaking mainly in English. “The money we are putting forward today comes on top of what already exists.”

The run-up to the announcement has been dominated by a controversy over tax breaks offered by Luxembourg to major international firms when Juncker was premier. Juncker faces a confidence vote in the European Parliament on Thursday after eurosceptic lawmakers filed a motion against him, but he is almost certain to survive.

  Remedy

As expected, the overall responsibility for the three-year plan will fall on the European Investment Bank, a little-known EU institution based in Luxembourg that is often criticized for its lack of ambition.

The heart of the problem in the 28-nation bloc is a drastic lack of investment, which remains way off pre-crisis levels, in stark contrast to the United States and despite unprecedented stimulus measures by the European Central Bank.

The plan is designed to attack the investment problem head-on, but with the added challenge to do so without more public spending, with most EU countries already paralyzed by high deficits and mountains of debt. “The amounts are lower than we hoped, but we felt that coming in recent weeks,” an EU diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In essence, the plan uses existing cash from both the EIB and EU to feed an investment fund that will be tasked with financing private-sector driven projects. But economist Reinhard Cluse at UBS in London said that EU investment plans “focus too hard on big headline numbers”.

“These have relied on significant ‘crowding in’ of private resources, which has often failed to materialize,” he said, before the final details of the plans emerged.

Financialtribune.com