The Council presidency, the European Central Bank and the European Commission met with European social partners on 7 November 2016 to discuss the investment plan for Europe with a focus on the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and the third pillar of the plan, aimed at removing barriers that prevent investment.
In his opening statement, Peter Kažimír, minister for finance of Slovakia and president of the Council said: "The European economy continues its moderate but steady recovery. In order to strengthen growth, to create new jobs and safeguard sustainability in the long term, we need to boost both private and public investment. The Investment plan for Europe offers such an investment possibility. To fully utilize the potential of EFSI we have to improve additionality of projects, increase focus on equity financing and ensure greater geographical balance of projects. Our policy response should not stop here. Eliminating investment barriers is as important as anything else if we want to attract necessary private capital."
Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said: "Under the current circumstances, we need to deploy all policy tools - monetary, fiscal and structural - to improve Europe's economic prospects. A continuous dialogue and cooperation with the social partners are needed to get the balance right and maximise the impact of policies on the real economy, in order to boost growth and create new, particularly high-quality jobs."
Speaking on behalf of Europe's SMEs, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAPME) secretary general Peter Faross said: "Our latest figures on SMEs show modest growth and some increase in employment. However, SMEs are still reluctant to invest, which is due to low profitability, uncertainty and difficulties to finance innovation and investments. Therefore, the extension of the European investment plan comes at the right moment and we are not surprised about the high up-take of the SME finance window. A prolongation of EFSI is crucial to strengthen the current recovery by providing long-term and risk-taking financial instruments allowing SMEs to innovate and to invest".
Speaking on behalf of the Confederation of European Business, BusinessEurope, director general Markus J. Beyrer commented: "European business expects the EU's economic recovery to continue despite an increasingly challenging international environment. While growing EU consumer demand is helping to drive growth, more needs to be done to address barriers to global trade and falling global trade growth. Although investment is growing, much remains to be done to improve the EU's investment attractiveness in order to close the still significant investment gap compared to pre-crisis levels. So far, the UK's vote to leave the EU appears not to have damaged business confidence, but remains a long-term risk given the profound interconnectedness of the EU and UK economies. We need to maintain economic relations between the EU and the UK as close as possible, but this must not happen at the expense of the integrity of the single market. Cherry picking between the four single market freedoms is not an option."
Speaking on behalf of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Veronica Nilsson, deputy general secretary underlined: "Over the last 40 years, workers have been expected to do more for less. In 26 out of 28 Member States, the share of wages as a proportion of GDP has been decreasing since the 1980s. Workers have had to become more competitive, more flexible and less protected. The result has been a financial, economic and social crisis because of over-financialised economies. Profits have recovered from the crisis but workers have not. Since 2009, Hungary, The Netherlands, Ireland, the UK, Italy, Romania, Denmark, Portugal, Finland and Austria are among the EU countries continuing to experience a gap between wage and productivity at the expense of wage earners. Now is the time for a wage increase for all workers in Europe."
Speaking on behalf of the CEEP, the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services, Valeria Ronzitti, general secretary said: "The European economy needs a strong impetus. After years of crisis we finally see positive signs of stabilisation for our growth and on the employment front. However, this is not enough for us to face the challenges of changing societies, linked to globalisation, digitalisation, the modernisation of labour markets and demographic ageing. For CEEP, supporting a strong investment policy remains key: from the EU level with the strengthening of the EFSI and from the national level with new support measures for public and private investment to boost productivity and employment. To accomplish our common objectives, we must also address the paradox between fiscal consolidation processes and the relaunch of the economy. This implies undertaking an honest and non-ideological review of the stability and growth pact to leave space for new investments in our public infrastructures."
EFSI managing director Wilhelm Molterer said: “Continuing our work to support investments in the real economy remains essential if we aim at improving the economic outlook in the EU. The investment plan for Europe, and EFSI in particular, are delivering on their goal to boost investments for growth and jobs. EFSI is already expected to mobilize close to €140bn in new investments in all key sectors of the economy. The EIB independent evaluation confirmed that EFSI is well on track to meet its ambitious target and highlighted that in fact all three pillars of the Investment Plan for Europe are critical. To be a success, EFSI needs progress to be achieved especially on the plan's third pillar, which aims to address the remaining barriers to investment both at EU and member states level.”
The views cited in this text are those of the individual or organisation concerned and do not collectively constitute the point of view of the Council or the European Council.