Local leaders welcome the wider scope and the support for cross-border projects but demand stronger complementarity with EU Cohesion Policy
In an opinion adopted on 7 December, EU's cities and regions have backed the European Commission's proposal to extend the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) operations and widen its scope to agriculture, fisheries and cross-border projects. But further cuts to Connecting Europe Facilities (CEF) and Horizon 2020 must be avoided and geographical and sectorial reach needs to be improved.
The European Committee of the Regions wants the EFSI – an EU guarantee facility worth €27.5bn – to keep supporting private investment across Europe until 2020, as proposed by the European Commission on 14 September. In the opinion led by Wim van de Donk (NL/EPP), Governor chair of the Council of the Province of Noord-Brabant, the Committee acknowledged the early achievements by the fund but calls for stronger attention to the regional and local dimension, with direct involvement of regions and cities in the European Investment Advisory Hub activities, and more transparency in investment decisions and monitoring.
According to the rapporteur: " With the opinion on EFSI 2.0, the Committee supports a further boost in investments throughout Europe as proposed by the European Commission. This is a top priority in order to bring back growth and jobs for our citizens." He added: "I look forward to sharing our proposals with the other EU institutions in the coming weeks."
Regions and cities argue that clearer procedures and guidance for local and regional authorities are needed to integrate the EFSI with the other EU growth tools, including the European Structural and Investment Funds (worth €454bn until 2020), the EU research programme Horizon 2020 (€80bn), and the CEF (€33bn). The Committee opposes the idea of funding the EFSI extension by redeploying part of the CEF's resources. EFSI financial needs should be lowered, instead, by reducing the target level for the guarantee coverage.
The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula, stated: " Bridging the investment gap in Europe is our main priority and the EFSI has the potential to make a real contribution. Nevertheless, it is still a work in progress and needs fine-tuning. EFSI will be successful if it complements, not replaces, the EU's existing tools, including Structural and Investment Funds as part of Cohesion Policy and Horizon 2020. There is a long way to go to if we are to increase take-up and make sure these innovative financing tools work in synergy to create more jobs and sustainable growth. All our regions and cities must benefit from these EU-supported instruments. "
With regards to diversification, local leaders welcome plans to open 'EFSI 2' up to cross-border initiatives. Regions and cities want all kinds of cross-border and territorial cooperation projects to be eligible and call for a legislative amendment to enable European Groups for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) to receive support from the fund.
Finally, the Committee echoes a call by the European Court of Auditors for EFSI to avoid overlapping with pre-existing European Investment Bank (EIB) tools and to address the current geographical concentration (91% of its total investment is in EU15 countries), through special initiatives targeted at poorer areas. In this context, the CoR is planning to intensify its cooperation with the EIB and the Commission to increase regions' and cities' involvement in the EFSI initiative.