Bid to unblock EIB funds for SMEs

By Evgenia Tzortzi

Development and Competitiveness Minister Yiannis Stournaras discussed on Friday the approval of funding from the European Investment Bank for the activation of a guarantee fund for small and medium-sized enterprises with EIB Vice President Plutarchos Sakellaris.

The agreement for the creation of the fund was signed two months ago but due to obstacles such as Fitch?s recent downgrade that took Greece?s credit rating down to CCC, and of course the increased risk of a eurozone exit, progress has been slow. Such factors are making the EIB skeptical about investing in Greece given that it already has considerable exposure in this country.

The EIB has committed itself to leveraging the fund?s resources with a one-to-two ratio, and the issue is set to be discussed at the next meeting of the bank?s governing board on June 5.

Athens is hoping the funding will be unblocked so as to activate the creation of the guarantee fund for SMEs and offer at least 1 billion euros of cash by the end of next year. The first 600 million euros must be paid out by January 2013.