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AECM Annual Seminar Istanbul, Turkey
17 October 2014

EIF and European Commission organize Workshop on EU Financial instruments in Luxembourg

News - 25/01/2012

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On the 25th of January 2012, the European Investment Fund (EIF) organised a Workshop on EU financial instruments for SMEs in cooperation with the European Commission (EC). The workshop brought together all relevant stakeholders at national and European level to discuss the current functioning of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and the up-coming EU follow-up programmes (e.g. Programme for the Competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs – COSME). The Commission's proposal for COSME is currently being discussed at the European Parliament and Council. AECM presented its views as a participant to the second panel on guarantees.

During the Workshop both financing sources equity and guarantee and loan instruments were outlined. The different speakers presented their experiences with the on-going CIP programme and their views on the necessary changes for the follow-up programme – COSME. The EIF underlined that debt instruments are as needed as equity instruments for SME finance. The event was well attended by a number of AECM member organizations.

The second panel in the afternoon, chaired by Mr.Alessandro Tappi, Head of Guarantees, Securitisation & Microfinance at the EIF, focused on guarantee and loan instruments in support of competitiveness and innovation.

During the panel, Mr. Victor Ibarreche Asúa, from Compañía Española de Refinanciamiento (CERSA), stated that the CIP programme helped to provide counter-guarantees to the 23 Spanish Guarantee Institutions, which are organized in regional and sectorial schemes. For those Guarantee Schemes EIF-funding through the CIP has been crucial. He welcomed the new COSME programme, but sees the maximum loan eligibility threshold of € 150.000 critical. This causes problems for the Spanish Guarantee Schemes, as their investments are often above this limit. He highlighted that financial intermediaries need a stable platform for the successor programmes and appealed to the EU institutions not to introduce too many changes to the architecture of the instruments.

AECM stated that about one third of its members participated in the CIP and previously in the MAP. While CIP has been a key support during the financial crisis, the COSME will continue to be a very effective support instrument in the coming years, given the difficult framework conditions for the financial sector and SME loan finance. AECM therefore welcomed the strong commitment of the EU institutions under the COSME programme. AECM sees COSME as necessary and complementary to other financing programmes providing financial instruments for guarantees, such as the structural funds programmes and the future RSI. Indeed, each address a particular situation of market failure.

However, similarly to CERSA, AECM regrets that a maximum threshold amount has been established for single guarantee operations under the COSME. In fact the Commission's proposal, which is currently examined by the Council and the European Parliament, fixes a loan amount of max. € 150.000 as an eligibility criteria for guarantees under COSME. Any operations with amounts above this threshold would have to fall under the Research and innovation programme.

Previously, there had not been such a threshold and it would be problematic in particular for the financing of start-ups and business transfers. Indeed, the financing needs for such operations easily exceed this amount. However, not all SMEs with financing needs above €150.000 are necessarily innovative companies and would not be able to make use of the innovation financial instruments. They would be excluded from EU financial support. Therefore, if a threshold has to be maintained, it should not be applied to the loan amount, but to the counterguarantee amount issued by the programme itself, which makes more sense since the guarantee coverage rates of the loan amount can be variable.

As regards the practical aspects of the implementation of COSME, AECM stated that continuity with the CIP as well as a simplification and flexibility of the rules are required to make the task of intermediaries easier in the future. In particular, it would be important to be able to respond flexibly to changes in market environment under extreme stress conditions such as the Financial crisis. Also, it would be important to introduce a reasonable relaxation of additionality criteria, which have effectively made participation of some of AECM's public members impossible under the CIP.

Finally, as AECM financial intermediaries have to deal with a number of European programmes (Risk Sharing Instrument, Structural Funds, etc.), it would be very welcome if in the future there were “synergies” for its members both when applying for new programmes as well as regarding administrative requirements, all the way from the application process to the reporting and auditing provisions.

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