EU executive aims to improve investment plan reach to poorer EU states

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission plans to improve the geographical reach of its flagship investment scheme after the first year of its operation showed that mainly the richest 15 countries of the 28-nation bloc benefited from it, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.


The scheme, launched last year, seeks to attract private funds to finance investments, the more risky parts of which are covered by the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) using 21 billion euros of public money.


By the end of June, one year into the three-year scheme, the program generated 104.75 billion of investment, or one third of the planned outcome, the European Investment Bank said in an evaluation report on the plan, which it co-finances.


But it also said that nearly all of the money spent so far had gone to the 15 richest countries in the bloc, leaving the other 13 poorer ones out in the cold.


Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said such geographical distribution of projects financed by EFSI was a result of demand.

"Despite this, the Commission agrees that geographical coverage can be further improved," she said, saying it was part of the Commission's proposal to double the plan in size and length.

"Our proposal places a stronger emphasis on leveraging local knowledge to facilitate EFSI support across the EU," she said.

To encourage projects also from the 13 poorer EU countries, they will get "targeted technical assistance services at local level across the EU" from the European Investment Advisory Hub and the Commission will encourage the EIB to be more active there too.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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