Yesterday I gave the closing speech at the Conference on the financial Instruments 2014-2020 under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI funds), jointly organised by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank and opened by European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen.
During this conference we launched fi-compass - a new advisory service on financial instruments for the Structural (ESI) Funds. This platform will be an important enabler for Member States to make use of financial instruments under these Funds. Although these instruments are relatively new and sophisticated, I wanted to take some time to outline their potential.
Regional Policy is traditionally based on grants allocated to Member States; during the 2007-2013 budgetary period, only 6% of ESI funds were deployed through financial instruments. But the policy is evolving: more performance-oriented, more flexible and more focused on key areas (investment in SME support, research, innovation, digital and low-carbon economy), it is now playing acentral role in revitalising the European economy.
As a matter of fact, the reformed Regional Policy was identified by President Jean-Claude Juncker as a means to achieve the objectives of the €315 billion EU Investment Plan, through strategic and effective investments, job creation and sustainable growth.
Some €450 billion of EU Structural Funds will be made available to Member States throughout the next seven years; financial instruments have the power to increase the impact of every single Euro invested! This is why I strongly encourage Member States to double their use of financial instruments during the 2014-2020 budgetary period. This will increase the leverage of Regional Policy by €26 billion over the next three years.
This conference was a great opportunity to meet the stakeholders that implement Regional Policy on the ground. After some fruitful exchanges of experience and best practice I really felt that we were building the future of Regional Policy, one of the oldest and most vital EU policies.