It’s really a pleasure to see journalists in the room again.
We’d like to give you an overview of an overview of how the European Investment Bank Group has been able to contribute to meeting some of the greatest challenges we, as a society, face.
When I say European Investment Bank, it means the Group, which includes the European Investment Fund, whose Chairman I have the pleasure to be.
In 2021, we continued to confront the twin threats of the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, anchored in our belief that we must also think outside of Europe’s borders, if we are to address these global challenges.
COVID-19 response/Support for health
In 2021, the EIB Group signed almost €95 billion of financing, up from €77 billion in 2020. That’s equivalent to US$108 billion, more than any other multilateral development bank, and a record for us.
I remember vividly the meetings of the Eurogroup two years ago, when financial institutions, for instance, ECB, ESM and the EIB were sitting together with the finance ministers and we gave our advice. I remember vividly when the President of the ECB said we need a response here that is fat, fast, flexible and European. Because there is the risk of the undermining of the integrity of the internal market. Together with our colleagues in the European Commission and the ESM, we provided that European response.
That was so necessary, because we had many, many companies around Europe, small, medium and large, who would not have survived a couple of months of revenue shortage although they are basically sound companies. It was not protecting the weak, but giving a chance to survive to the strongest.
We continued to invest at an unprecedented scale – a total of €5.5 billion – in health and cutting-edge life-science companies, as was the case for BioNTech previously, and we channel much needed support to treatment and diagnostics. BioNTech is an interesting case, because when the pandemic appeared on the horizon, the masterminds at BioNTech came to us and said, ‘The mRNA technology which you have helped finance might be applicable to fight the pandemic’. So we were well-positioned to take up the COVID challenge.
We have also approved €900 million in financing for the COVAX initiative that helped deliver 1 billion doses of vaccines across the world, and counting. Europe is exporting more vaccines than any other region. And we are also backing the build-up of vaccine production capacities in developing countries. There is a lot that’s going to be happening in the next months.
More than 780 million people around the world will benefit from the healthcare investments we made in 2021.
European Guarantee Fund (EGF)
Almost half of our financing last year – i.e. €45 billion – went to small and medium-sized enterprises, the cornerstone of Europe’s economy, and the worst financially affected by COVID-19.
When the virus hit, the EIB Group responded swiftly, in coordination with the Member States, the Commission and the ESM.
As part of the EU’s €540 billion response package agreed in spring 2020, we set up the European Guarantee Fund (EGF), with an endowment of €24.4 billion, established by 22 Member States. We started operations in December 2020, after receiving the European Commission’s clearance under the state aid notification process, and over the twelve months of 2021 we allocated practically the whole amount through more than 400 different operations in those 22 countries.
The total financing approved so far is expected to mobilise around €175 billion in investments, and counting.
The European economy badly needed this support, and it needed it fast. So the EIB Group is proud that we were able to deliver so swiftly on such an important mission.
European Investment Fund (EIF)
I would like to especially highlight the achievement of the European Investment Fund, the EIB Group’s SME specialist subsidiary.
The EIF more than doubled its financing last year compared to 2020, with commitments worth over 30 billion euros. Financing from the EIB Group was last year allocated to more than 430 000 SMEs and midcaps. It sustained over 4.5 million jobs at these companies at a time when the effects of the coronavirus destroyed jobs by the millions. The European Investment Fund has been instrumental in these achievements. And I recognise highly the enormous efforts and achievements of our colleagues in the Fund.
According to the new edition of our annual EIB Investment Survey, more than half of the firms in Europe benefitted from some kind of policy support over the past 2 years.
Most of them confirm that this support was crucial in helping them weather the shock …
… and adapt to a new reality.
I am convinced that it is in no small part due to these bold efforts that we have seen real investment in the EU get back to its pre-crisis level in less than two years. In particular, in comparison to the way we handled the global financial crisis.
By comparison, after the global financial crisis, it took more than a decade to get investment back to where it had been!
In 2021 we stayed true to our climate mission. I am pleased to report that – on top of delivering on our crisis support – the Bank has achieved a record 51% of climate lending last year…four years ahead of schedule. We had promised that for 2025.
There have been several one-off factors that have contributed to this...and we have still a long way to go when it comes to climate. But the result shows that the Bank is transforming faster than anyone could have expected into the EU’s climate bank… cementing Europe’s global leadership in this area!
In 2021, we took important steps on our Climate Bank roadmap: we finalised our Adaptation Plan. Some climate change is irreversible and we already see it around us. Adaptation increases our resilience to it and our plan trebles our commitment to this by 2025.
This means, for example, that we will not finance a windfarm by a highly polluting company if the company does not credibly commit to phasing out its polluting business at the same time.
I’m proud to say that we are the first multilateral development bank to do this, but I have no doubt the others are looking at how to go about it as well, and we will be keen to learn from them when they publish their plans.
Albert Einstein used to say that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Most of the many technologies that we urgently need to fight climate change still don’t exist. We must invest, very heavily, in innovation and in bringing new technology to the scale needed for a change.
Last year, a record €20.7 billion of the EIB Group’s financing went to support innovation, including investment in digitalisation and the promotion of digital skills—one of the biggest weaknesses of the European economy until today. This is crucial to maintain Europe’s competitiveness while a massive structural change is taking place. It is also crucial when we pursue the idea of the EU’s strategic resilience.
To be better prepared for future crises, we need to become more self-reliant. To cooperate fruitfully with multilateral partners, we also need to bring to the table compelling propositions of our own.
We must develop new, better, more productive, more effective and more sustainable ways of doing things. And we must make sure we can invest in our ideas and see the fruit of their success, in Europe and for Europe, ensuring global partners value our contribution to tackling global challenges.
Last year we financed the development of lightweight materials and electronics for electric cars, the ramping-up of Europe’s first full-scale battery plant for electric road vehicles, and the development and deployment of artificial intelligence in autonomous vehicles.
We financed cybersecurity technologies and very high capacity fixed and mobile networks, innovation for reduced energy consumption of home electronics, and much, much more.
Plenty done. But there’s a lot more to do.
The EIB’s engineers estimate that about 50% of the emission reductions needed by 2050 depend on technologies that are currently still at the prototype or demonstration stage – they are not yet available in the market.
These technologies will not come out of thin air. We need to promote them and make sure that they have the funds necessary for becoming competitive. This is where the EIB can add value – and, this is – by the way – why member states and the European Commission decided very consciously why the EIB should focus its scarce resources.
It is today that we need to work on the solutions for tomorrow.
We need to boost high-risk, private-sector investment in innovation and new affordable climate technologies allowing developing countries to pursue sustainable growth. Climate, innovation, development, and strategic autonomy – you see, it is all connected.
And we must never allow ourselves to think of climate, innovation, and development separately, in different boxes.
It is also connected to cohesion. Investing in a more sustainable, more innovative economy benefits all. A greener economy is a must, and will create opportunities everywhere. But there will be a need to act deliberately and promptly in support of the more vulnerable sections of societies and of those whose jobs currently exist in high-emission sectors.
Helping to make the transition is part of our raison d’etre. It is also why we will bring a strong contribution to the EU Just Transition Mechanism in Europe.
Last year we adopted a new orientation paper to guide us on how we can contribute to economic growth in less developed regions and the reduction of disparities in the European Union.
I’m happy to report that last year 41% of our inside EU-financing from our own resources went to less developed regions and transition regions. Cohesion remains a cornerstone of the EU bank’s activities.
All the issues we deal with – all the issues that I have talked about so far – have a global dimension. Less than 10% of the population in Africa have received a COVID shot, so we are clearly short of what needs to be done.
Climate change mitigation needs to be global. We need to be able to show that the EU can actually deliver on the energy transition but it will be a drop in the ocean if we do not tackle this challenge globally. At the same time, we know that Europe has been a main contributor to CO2 emissions and the resulting climate change that we face today. Hence, we also bear a great responsibility to support adaptation to this climate change, not only in the EU but around the globe.
The EIB has a strong track record of global partnership and business. Since 1958, we have invested more than €1.5 trillion in more than 160 countries, and governments, commercial banks and businesses around the world are solid partners for us.
Last year we signed our very first projects in countries such as Timor-Leste and El Salvador.
In line with the overall reform of the EU’s global activities and following the request by the Council resulting from several years of reflection on the EU’s financing architecture for development, we have embarked on a process to reform EIB’s activities outside the EU and establish a specialised development finance arm.
This will be called EIB Global. A strong brand.
It is EIB Global’s mission to form global partnerships in support of global objectives shared by the EU and its partners.
The EIB – with EIB Global now dedicated to this purpose – has been and will remain the EU’s development bank. It will bring together all the EIB’s resources and expertise for operating outside the EU under a clear management structure that can make a stronger, more focused contribution to Team Europe.
To ensure a more direct steer of EIB Global’s activities by the EU’s external policy objectives, a Board Advisory Group will be established next month.
EIB Global has been set up to increase the impact of our financing. We strongly believe this will increase our value as a partner.
As a first step of an evolving business model for higher impact we will expand our local presence around the world. We already have roughly 30 offices worldwide beyond the borders of the EU. We plan to add many others, housed within EU delegations wherever possible, as is already the practice.
It’s of the utmost importance, because we consider ourselves, particularly EIB Global, an integral part of the EU set up, and that must be made visible.
We will bring bankers and engineers to the ground to serve the EU policy dialogue and Team Europe, to be involved in the origination and preparation of projects, in accelerating disbursements, monitoring and trouble-shooting… and, crucially, to learn from each other.
EIB Global will be there to support the EU’s priorities in different geographies: what we do in the EU’s neighbourhood and the pre-accession countries will be different from what we do in Africa or Asia. But everything we do will support EU priorities and benefit from our expertise. EIB Global will implement the EU’s Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument Global Europe, known as NDICI, on behalf of the EIB Group.
EIB Global will be the Commission’s key partner for the Global Gateway, an exciting project to step up EU investments in infrastructure development around the world.
The future of the EU will depend on the Union’s ability to shape the global agenda, global standards and global networks. We cannot be naïve if we want to support global partnerships built on trust, inclusiveness, liberal values, sustainability and social and environmental standards.
The EIB is ready to be an integral part of the offer that the EU can make to its partners when it comes to investing in our joint sustainable and inherently global futures.
We are open for business!
Ladies and gentlemen,
When we talk about challenges, very often the focus is on the problems: on the highly infectious new Omicron variant of COVID-19, on volatile gas and electricity prices, on floods or forest fires.
Working at the European Investment Bank Group instils, however, a sense of optimism, because our attitude is to focus on solutions, and scale them up.
I am happy to report that over the last year, after careful due diligence, we were able to identify €95 billion worth of solutions with our partners.
This helped millions of people, financed thousands of projects and strengthened the EU project at home and abroad.
We look forward to finding solutions also this year and the years to come.
Thank you very much for your attention and I look forward to your questions! I ask my colleagues to be prepared to take them, when I’m too shy. Thank you very much.