Minister for Finance Michael Noonan T.D. Speech on Opening of EIB Group Dublin Office
Friday 9th December 2016
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Taoiseach, President Hoyer, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by echoing the sentiments of the Taoiseach in his welcome for the opening of the new EIB Group office here in Dublin. I would like to congratulate Cormac on his appointment as the first Head of the Office and wish him every success in his new role in which I look forward to working closely with him.
EIB in Ireland
It is important to recall, as I’m sure President Hoyer will emphasise, the role of the EIB as the EU bank. The opening of this Office is important in that it underscores the relationships Ireland must reinforce in order to confront the obvious challenges we face over the next few years. Ireland’s future is to be at the heart of Europe and the opening of this Office allow us to re-emphasise Ireland’s commitment to the EU and its institutions.
We already know that certain sectors in the Irish economy will face more challenging times. The EIB will have a role to play in helping to address the negative economic impact of these challenges.
In this context, the conclusion today of an agreement between the SBCI and the European Investment Fund for a COSME counter guarantee facility to support a cash flow support loan scheme for Irish farmers is a welcome development. This type of innovative risk sharing product is new to Ireland and enables the quantum of finance provided to business to be greatly increased by sharing the risk between the SBCI, the European Investment Fund and commercial finance providers.
I also welcome the conclusion of a funding agreement earlier today between EIB and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland towards the development of a new €80 million Academic and Education Building in York Street and an €11million expansion of the RCSI’s Education and Research Centre on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital.
Between 2011 and 2015, almost €3.4 billion worth of new loans have been signed between the EIB and counterparts in Ireland and today’s signature with RCSI brings to almost €500m the total volume of new EIB lending into Ireland agreed in 2016.
Announcement of new Ireland-EIB Financing Group
The new EIB Office will pave the way for stronger cooperation between the EIB and Ireland. To take forward this relationship, I am establishing and will chair a new “EIB-Ireland Financing Group.” This group, which will include relevant Irish Departments and Agencies working alongside senior EIB staff, will provide a new focus for engagement and will work to ensure a strong ongoing pipeline of projects supported by EIB in Ireland.
Role of EIB in facing the challenges facing the EU
The EIB has always responded when Europe has faced challenges and it should be congratulated for taking forward the mandate given to it by EU Heads of State and Government and by Finance Ministers to help deal with the difficult challenges currently facing the EU.
It has created new products to help Europe recover from the financial crisis and it has expanded its operations outside of Europe to face ongoing challenges, in particular in relation to climate change and migration.
European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI)
Central amongst the EIB response of course is the European Fund for Strategic Investments or EFSI, as part of the Investment Plan for Europe. Ireland has been a strong supporter of the EU’s steps in response to the crisis in investment from the outset and continues to be so. The first year of operation of EFSI has shown that it is having a very real and tangible impact in supporting Europe’s future job creation, growth and competitiveness.
I was very pleased therefore that Ecofin was able to endorse the Commission’s proposal for an extension and reinforcement of EFSI at this week’s Ecofin. The proposal seeks not just to extend EFSI but also to enhance it by incorporating lessons learned during the first year of operation, as well as the outcomes of the recent evaluations of EFSI.
I am particularly keen that expansion and enhancements of EFSI should raise the potential for Ireland to increase our level of EFSI support, both for public and private sector projects given the twin focus of EFSI. In particular, support for Ireland’s SME Sector is vital. This is particularly the case given the challenges facing that sector following the UK Referendum.
As EFSI is of course demand-driven, it is important that the other pillars, such as the Investment Advisory Hub, act as indirect supports to Member States, including Ireland, in originating and developing projects for EFSI. In this regard, the positive engagement that is happening between the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and the EIB authorities is critical.
I would also like to acknowledge in this context the role of Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund, which acts as a sovereign investor with a dual mandate to create jobs and support economic growth in Ireland, and is a strong potential partner to EFSI here in Ireland.
Let me conclude by acknowledging the central role played by Andrew McDowell in making today’s announcements a reality. Since his appointment as a Vice President of the EIB earlier this year, Andrew has worked tirelessly to reinforce the strong relationship we have with EIB. I am confident he will continue to be a strong advocate for this relationship and that the EIB as an organisation will benefit hugely from his membership of the EIB Management Committee over the next number of years.