ECONOMY

EIB chief seeks to expand loans to Greece

Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos and visiting European Investment Bank (EIB) Chairman Philippe Maystadt yesterday expressed interest in the bank playing a more active role in Greece, according to a press release yesterday. The interest concerns the financing of both private and public sector projects in the sectors of energy, tourism and commerce, as well as cooperation over setting up the Greek Guarantee Fund for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Maystadt noted that requirements are changing and that EIB, which to date has financed large public projects in transport and telecommunications, is now keen to develop its activities in energy and tourism, which are currently at the forefront of private investment interest in Greece. At present, 60 percent of EIB loans to Greece, which represented a total portfolio of about 7.5 billion euros at the end of 2001, concern public transport projects. Of this, 1.7 billion euros was lent within 2001. «Our involvement to date has mainly been in the public sector, but we ought to diversify in future,» Maystadt said. According to the press release, the two sides discussed procedures through which the bank’s tried and tested practices could converge with related initiatives promoted by the ministry. Sources said EIB, which is the European Union’s main financing arm, is willing to underwrite half the guarantees for loans to SMEs to be covered by the Guarantee Fund. The bank has already been acting as adviser in the creation of the fund. Maystadt noted that Greece was behind EU countries in the use of EIB loans to SMEs. EIB also intends to finance the development of technology parks in Athens and Thessaloniki. Maystadt welcomed the Greek government’s goal of turning the country into an energy hub in southeastern Europe and its linkage with other European networks, and expressed EIB strong support for the plan. The tourism projects in which the bank is interested include the privatizations of Parnitha casino and a number of marinas, and the upgrading of a golf course in Afantou, Rhodes, and construction of a theme park in Anavyssos, south of Athens.