The decrease of EU investments following the global economic and financial crisis has demanded collective and coordinated efforts at European level to reverse this downward trend and put Europe back on track of economic recovery.
To this end, the Investment Plan for Europe, the so-called Juncker Plan, aims to encourage investment in order to create jobs, boost growth and competitiveness, meet long-term economic needs and strengthen the EU’s productive capacity and infrastructure. The plan supports investment in the real economy through a pipeline of EU-based projects, creates an investment-friendly environment by removing barriers to investment and mobilises public and private resources.
Among its priorities, the Investment Plan for Europe highlights the social impact of the integration of migrants and refugees into EU labour market. This action is to be accomplished through the provision of training and job-matching assistance paired with a risk-sharing between private and public investors to help local, regional and national governments improve efficiency of social and economic inclusion.
What are the Juncker plan’s latest results? Who has benefited so far? Has it had a real impact on SMEs competitiveness?
These and more questions were addressed during the Economic Ideas Forum (EIF) high-level conference organized by Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies which took place on Tuesday 7th November 2017. Each year the conference brings together speakers from the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, financial experts and business leaders that discuss innovative ideas and propose solutions to the economic challenges facing the EU economy. This year the conference tackled a variety of topics including online safety, investment, globalisation, digital issues and welfare.
The second panel of the conference, ’’Ready, set invest: the Juncker plan and beyond’’ was built around the questions of ’’why do we need investments in Europe and where are we today?’’ and was moderated by Juha-Pekka Nurvala, EPP Acting Head of Unit for Policy and Strategy. In the first part of the discussion the speakers focused on analysing the Juncker Plan and taking a look at its merits and in the second part of the discussion they reflected on the steps that should be taken in the future.
Paulina Dejmek-Hack, Financial advisor to the President of the European Commission, opened the discussion giving the Commission’s point of view regarding the Juncker Plan. The fund has been operational for two years and reached more than 75% of the target level, 460 000 SMEs have already benefitted from such plan, which has also created 300 000 jobs. Therefore the Juncker plan has lifted up to the expectations until now.
The Juncker Plan has been built on three key concepts:
- Additionality: the Juncker Plan supports and finances projects that wouldn’t have been financed otherwise. At the same time, the money should be invested into something new and innovative.
- Investment committee:the projects are selected by market financing experts and project experts.
- Innovative projects:the Plan gives access to funds to innovative programs such as social integration, social infrastructure and health.
The commission has proposed to extend and reinforce the plan and assure continuity.
The next speaker was Ms. Maria Spyraki, MEP, Committee on Regional Development and she stated that the Juncker Plan has also a negative side. The Juncker Plan is working on a high level, especially for big companies coming from abroad, while many SMEs find it difficult to apply for funds. There are ongoing procedures that should solve this problems.
After that, Ms. Maria Luis Albuquerque, former Minister of State and Finance of Portugal, pointed out that there is a need of more investments in the developed economies, namely in the infrastructures that need to be completed in order to deepen the single market.
The next speaker was Mr. Karim Lesina, Vice President of AT&T for International External Affairs, who stated that, from a company’s perspective and as an external observer The Juncker Plan is seen as a success.
The conclusions drawn by the moderator, Mr. Juha-Pekka Nurvala, underlined that in order to make the EU an attractive place for investors we have to be open for change and for trade, we need to be flexible and smart towards the public sector’s involvement in the business development and new businesses’ setup.
Such progressive public sector’s involvement will have to take into account the contribution of migrant entrepreneurs and migrant potential entrepreneurs, as drivers of economic growth, job creation and skill development. To do that, upcoming policies will need to go towards the direction of: Entrepreneurial education and training; Providing platforms for entrepreneurs to develop and grow; Establishing Role models and outreach to sector/region based groups.