Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you to the annual JASPERS stakeholders meeting. Let it be a good opportunity for exchanging experiences, networking and feedback to improve JASPERS as an effective instrument of the EU’s cohesion policy.
[What JASPERS stands for]
From the construction or improvement of road, rail, air, maritime and other public transportation links to the development of healthcare facilities;
from research and development to energy efficiency schemes;
from broadband to urban regeneration;
from waste management to drinking water supply,
JASPERS helps to improve the standard of living of millions of European citizens.
JASPERS is a brand of excellence for the projects it screens. Being a reliable partner for EU Member States in project development and implementation, JASPERS is a key player in delivering the EU’s cohesion policy. Jointly funded by the European Investment Bank, the EBRD and the European Commission, this instrument is a key part of the EU’s advisory services.
Over more than 10 years of its existence, JASPERS has spearheaded more than 1 000 completed projects and widened the scope of advisory support to better cater to the needs on the ground.
This initiative has helped the Member States to absorb the available EU funds and develop the capacity to create wider and more ambitious investment programmes. To better respond to investment needs, JASPERS has also expanded its activities under the Networking Platform, both for multi-country action programmes and at regional level.
The total investment cost of JASPERS-supported projects approved by the EU Commission between 2007 and today is close to EUR 75 billion, of which almost two thirds is covered by EU grants.
[Current economic environment]
These figures may sound impressive, but we must not rest on our laurels: the needs in terms of project delivery remain enormous. We are reminded every day of the economic and social disparities and challenges, and the most recent economic figures show that Europe’s economy is sluggish.
In the second quarter of this year, GDP is up by only 0.4% in the EU28 (up by 0.3% in the euro area). EU investment in real terms is still some 7% lower than the pre-crisis level.
The new phase of economic uncertainty sparked by Brexit is accompanied by worrying waves of economic nationalism.
Against the backdrop of the challenges coming from forces threatening the unity of the EU, the cohesion policy is making a major contribution to supporting Europe’s resilience and future prosperity during these delicate and difficult times. The cohesion policy is both a concrete expression of solidarity and a major driver of economic recovery and convergence. Together with the co-financing provided by Member States, it accounts for a very significant proportion of public investment in Europe. In fact, it accounts for more than half of all public investment in several Member States.
[EFSI and EFSI 2.0]
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe – and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) both play a crucial role in creating jobs and growth.
Thanks to EFSI, over 200 000 small firms and start-ups across Europe have received loans, and over 100 000 persons have got new jobs.
Less than two weeks ago, the European Commission proposed to double the duration and size of EFSI, which in its first year of operation led to new investments amounting to almost 116 billion euro.
The aim is now to provide at least 500 billion euro of investments by 2020. Bearing in mind the importance of the cohesion policy, the extended EFSI objectives will also cover the less-developed and transition regions. This means an even more crucial role for JASPERS in delivering good quality investment projects.
Achieving these objectives is a joint effort. All sources and players need to be mobilised. We need to make sure that we fully exploit the growth potential of the ESI Funds also, with strategic, performance-oriented investments, boosted by an increased use of financial instruments.
JASPERS assists in the preparation of major projects which support the investment priorities of the ESI Funds. In this way, JASPERS helps to bring about concrete benefits which make a difference to people’s lives, such as employment, innovation, education, inclusion, and the shift towards a low-carbon economy.
[JASPERS AND ITALY]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Italy is amongst JASPERS’ more recent beneficiaries. In the southern regions of Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, JASPERS has assisted 14 major projects in the transport and smart development sectors, contributing to the absorption of the EU Funds available from the 2007-2013 period.
Last June, JASPERS experts met here in Rome with the project team managing the implementation of the Next Generation Access broadband project. This project aims at ensuring that by 2020 all Italians have access to much higher internet speeds of above 30 megabytes per second and 50% or more of Italian households subscribe to internet connections above 100 megabytes per second.
This project is the first opportunity for our JASPERS experts to support an Italian major project belonging to the current programming period and we look forward to receiving other similar requests for assistance for projects that are so crucial for the country.
[JASPERS in 2016]
You may wonder what developments there have been since we met a year ago in Brussels.
Since the beginning of this year, JASPERS has stepped up support to all beneficiaries. Following expansion to Italy and France in 2015, advisory services have been extended to regions in the UK, and Portugal has also expressed a clear interest. In parallel, JASPERS has also enhanced its assistance to the candidate countries and started to operate in Turkey.
[Conclusion. We want your feedback]
We are stepping up our efforts in support of the preparation of projects all over Europe, building on the approach that has proved successful in the first ten years of JASPERS’ existence:
• The experience and specialist skills of our experts, to leverage faster and better quality investment;
• The proximity to our stakeholders, through our regional offices;
• Spreading knowledge and best practice: what we call “capacity building” is a fundamental part of the service that we offer – we don’t just contribute to “building” projects, we help develop the capacity to create wider and ambitious investment programmes. We need not only new skills, knowledge and capacity but also to learn how to make use of, and combine, the instruments available in more efficient ways;
• And last, but not least – and the most important objective of today’s meeting: the constant search for your feedback. We need to know what you expect from us in order to meet your expectations. Our Annual Stakeholder meeting is the most valuable opportunity for us to get your feedback.