Bankers want Juncker Plan cleared of state aid rules
European Union rules banning state aid to businesses should not apply to guarantees issued to boost investment under the three-year EU investment scheme, some of the key contributors to the plan said on Monday, according to the EU news and policy site EurActiv.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the EU’s main national promotional banks, including Germany’s KfW and France’s Caisse des Dépôts, expressed their view in a letter to be addressed to the European Commission.
The letter said public guarantees should be available below market prices to make the investment plan of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker work, said Franco Bassanini, head of Italy’s promotional bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
“Were these guarantees considered as illegal state aid, we can forget about the Juncker plan,” Bassanini told journalists, arguing that the riskier projects funded with the plan needed favourable treatment or would be shunned by investors.
Jyrki Katainen, the Commissioner in charge of the plan, said that talks were ongoing to clarify how state aid rules would apply to the Juncker Plan, an investment scheme intended to use leverage to generate EUR 315 bln of investment in Europe over three years.
National promotional banks of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Luxembourg, have said they would be ready to contribute billions of euros to projects financed by the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), the vehicle to be set up by the Juncker Plan, but only for projects in their own countries.
The European Commission would have preferred national contributions to go directly into the EFSI’s coffers because that would increase the leverage effect of the fund, which has capital of EUR 21 bln.
But contributions from national promotional banks are still important for the success of the plan, because they will decrease the risk for private actors when they invest in EFSI-sponsored projects, such as airports or broadband networks.
The banks fear that with state guarantees priced at market levels and subject to strict state aid rules, risks for private investors will be too high, reducing the appetite for investments.