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Following the events in Tunisia and Egypt, and an appeal from High Representative Catherine Ashton for extra funding for the Mediterranean region, Parliament voted on Thursday to increase by €1 billion until the end of 2013 the overall amount of European Investment Bank loan guarantees for infrastructure and small and medium-sized companies in the region.
MEPs voted to increase the ceiling of the EU guarantees to be used by the Bank by €1.7 billion, including additional support of €1 billion for SMEs and infrastructure in the Mediterranean basin. The EU guarantees for the Bank would amount to €29.567 billion up to the end of 2013, of which 2 billion is earmarked for environment and climate projects.
The increase was approved via an amendment tabled by Parliament's permanent rapporteur for the EIB, Ivailo Kalfin (S&D, BG), and was part of a wider package aiming at renewing the mandate for the EIB, which will expire by the end of October 2011.
"If we would like to give a clear signal to the people of the Mediterranean at this crucial time, we should enable the EIB to maintain the intensity of its activities in the region", explained Mr Kalfin.
More emphasis on the environment
Parliament is keen for the environment to play an important role in the new EIB mandate. MEPs have several times pressed the EIB to phase out its lending to fossil fuel projects in developing countries and to switch to low carbon energy investments. This is a strategic goal of the G20, to be reached by 2015. Parliament also made an additional €2 billion available for back-up loans for environment-related projects. "Let's hope that this new instrument will create incentives for the potential recipient countries to commit more to the climate related goals of the EU", said Mr Kalfin after the vote.
Parliament also urged the EIB to make some qualitative improvements. It wants to see better coordination with the newly established External Action Service and the European Commission in implementing the Union's external policies. MEPs also want more transparency, more stakeholder participation and better monitoring and reporting, particularly with regard to the impact on development and the environment.
The amendment to add €1 billion to guarantees for North Africa was adopted today by 546 votes to 48 with 6 abstentions. The overall legislative resolution was adopted - at first reading - by 538 votes to 37 with 37 abstentions.
Negotiations with the Council should start shortly. The second reading is expected within three to four months.REF. : 20110216IPR13784