EU seeks support for investment fund to boost economy

Author: Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) – The top official behind a proposed 315 billion euro ($371 billion) European Union investment plan said Tuesday he wants member states to contribute more money to get the continent’s flagging economy back on the upswing.

The fund is meant to reduce the risks of investment for private investors and encourage them to spend on strategic projects like broadband Internet, energy networks or small companies.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU legislators he would like individual countries “to participate in great numbers by giving impetus to the investment plan, by financing it.”

The Commission is urging a fast-track legal approval of the fund so it can launch in June to help kick-start growth and create jobs.

To encourage countries to take part in the plan, Juncker’s Commission, which supervises EU members’ budget plans, said it would take a “favourable position” on any contributions when it assessed the public finances of participating nations.

The so-called Juncker plan received wide backing when it was unveiled to EU leaders in December but no nations immediately came forward with contributions.

“The Juncker Plan has to become the Tusk Plan, the Renzi Plan, the Merkel Plan,” said liberal ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt, referring to the leaders of Poland, Italy and Germany. “If we are to exit this crisis, we need much more commitment.”

To establish the fund, to run for three years, the European Investment Bank would provide five billion euros in start-up cash, with a further 16 billion euros coming from the EU budget.

The scheme sets up an advisory hub to help identify, prepare and develop investment projects, and a system for informing investors about existing and up-coming projects.

Investment and risk guidelines for the fund will be drawn up by a steering board. An independent committee will make investment decisions based on those rules.

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