Following the EU’s 12 December decision to extend the operation of the European Fund for Strategic Investments until the end of 2020, and to raise the investment target to 500 billion euros, Greek European Parliament Members (MEP) from various parties see fresh opportunities for the much-needed funding of small-to-medium sized businesses, which have been decimated by the crisis.
Until now, Greek businesses have drawn only five billion euros from the fund, known in Greece as the Juncker package.
Maria Spyraki, an MEP for conservative main opposition New Democracy, told Deutsche Welle that Greece can do much better at asbsorbing capital from the fund, and that arrangements must be agree to so that large numbers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can achieve the maximum benefits.
“The new proposals offer Greece a significant opportunity. Funding of 1.6 billion euros can be leveraged to 5.5 billion, but now that is happening for large businesses. The point is to get the money to SMEs,” Spyraki said.
Critics have charged that large amounts from the fund have been absorbed by wealthy member-states that are well able to fund their own investment, rather than by the struggling economies of the south.
Spyraki said that investment projects can be promoted either through the European Investment Advisory hub, or through a much-touted national investment bank.
Noting that Greek tourism can benefit greatly from the fund, Spyraki said that the third bailout evaluation does not detail how a planned Greek investment bank will operate, thus creating uncertainty over whether the funding can be used to establish sectoral and regional investment platforms.
A number of EU labour ministers have argued that countries with an exceptionally high level of unemployment such as Greece (just over 20 percent), Portugal and Spain, and also eastern European countries.