I would like to congratulate the Spanish authorities on the steps they have taken to implement the country's SME Initiative Operational Programme, which was agreed last December. This action has allowed the Commission to release an interim payment of €456 million, the first such payment under the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) programmes.
It is also the first payment the Commission is making to financial instruments, which are set to play an increasingly important role during the 2014-2020 funding period. EU investments in the form of guarantees and/or financial securities are expected to leverage additional private investment.
And this is also the first payment under the SME Initiative, which aims to stimulate additional lending by the banking sector to SMEs. The SME Initiative combines EU funding available to Member States and regions under ESIF programmes with Horizon 2020, COSME and the own resources of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Investment Fund (EIF). The SME Initiative is already operational in Spain and Malta. Other countries are preparing to join the SME Initiative and I hope that they will take advantage of this new possibility very soon.
So well done again to Spain for this triple first! It is a clear and very positive sign that implementation of the 2014-20 ESIF programmes has started, and that the SME Initiative is living up to the expectations that it will be a quickly deployed crisis response, able to frontload support to SMEs and investments.