Launch of a new financial instrument for Greece to make full use of EU funds

It was my fourth visit to Greece since I became the EU Commissioner’s for Regional Policy. And that visit had it all: signing financial agreements, meeting top Greek politicians and witnessing first-hand how Regional Policy funds do have an immense impact on the ground.

First, the launch of the „Equity Fund of funds for Greece” on 22 December in Athens. Granted, „Equity Fund of Funds” sounds rather obscure for most of us. In a nutshell, this is a joint initiative of the European Union and the European Investment Fund to help Greek start-ups, small and medium enterprises gain access to what they need most: investment, financial resources that allow you to launch your company, to get hold of raw material in order to make and then sell products.

This fund of fund amounts to €260 Million. However €200 million of it come from Regional Policy, more specifically from the „competitiveness” operational programme; the remaining €60 Million come from the European Investment Fund of which 10 Million are from the European Fund for Strategic Investment.

Judging by the speakers at the launch event, one can see that this Fund of Funds is perceived as a major tool to help Greek SMEs; the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Stipras, the president of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer, and the Greek Minister of Economy and Development Dimo Papadimitriou to name but a few spoke at the event.

After The launch of the Fund of Fund I had a series of meeting with Alexis Tsipras to discuss how Greece can make the best use of EU funds at its disposal; I also held meetings with some of his ministers, including Dimo Papadimitriou and with the leader of the Greek opposition, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. I came out of those exchanges convinced that Greece is willing to use Cohesion Policy funding in order to strengthen its economy, to give its citizens, its youth, hope in the future.

However, the highlight of this 24-hour visit was going to see for myself the impact of Cohesion Policy on the ground, in everyday life: the Penteli primary school was built just outside Athens, thanks to EU funds. I won’t forget the childrens’ and pupils’ warm welcome! To see those children being provided quality education in a new building was more than moving. Thanks to the concept of EU Member States putting each their contribution into the same „Cohesion Policy” pot, 500 Million Europeans contribute to giving people across Europe the tools to build a bright future for themselves, thus strengthening the whole of Europe. Cohesion Policy works, I saw it in Penteli school.

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