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EU regional investments package to support infrastructure projects

The European Commission has adopted a series of programmes designed to pave the way for EU investments in “hundreds of cross-border and regional projects” in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK to support infrastructure plans and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Commission said the first of Europe's cross-border cooperation (Interreg) programmes, between Germany and the Netherlands, which are worth some €444 million, “will mainly invest in making the region's SMEs more innovative and helping create a greener economy in the Dutch-German border region”.

In addition, the first of the UK's regional operational programmes “unleashes an investment package worth €406m and €1.8 billion respectively to East Wales and to West Wales and the Valleys”, the Commission said.

The investments, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), “will help drive research and innovation, boost the competitiveness and access to finance of small businesses, further develop energy efficiency and renewables, and support sustainable public transport systems” such as the Metro network in the region of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.

EU regional policy commissioner Corina Cretu said: “The Germany-Netherlands programme goes well beyond our co-financing requirements with 50% match-funding from the regional partners to our ERDF. This is a 60% increase compared to the 2007-2013 period and shows the true added value of cooperation across borders.”

On the funding for Wales Cretu said: “Wales is a model for the rest of Europe's regions in terms of 'partnership in action'. These vital investment programmes will set Wales on the path to smart and green growth, connecting people, skills and jobs."

A survey published this year said SMEs in the UK would spend £8bn more on technology in 2014 than they did during 2013.

The Commission’s former vice-president for economic and monetary affairs and the euro, Olli Rehn, said earlier this year: “To help SMEs obtain the resources they need to invest and expand, we must promote high-quality securitisation to ease their access to capital market financing.”

Rehn said: “We must make better use of public funds to maximise the impact of productive investment on growth and job creation. This means creating synergies and facilitating access to funding for the renewal of key infrastructure. National and EU budgets, as well as promotional banks and export credit agencies, all have a role to play.”

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