March 7, 2018 / 10:24 AM / 9 months ago

European business programme aims to boost growth in Greece and beyond

ATHENS (Reuters) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have launched a new advisory programme to help small and mid-sized businesses in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania to grow and create jobs.

FILE PHOTO - The headquarter of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is seen in London, Britain, November 22, Britain 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The so-called European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) is part of the investment plan for Europe, known as the Juncker Plan, which focuses on boosting investment to generate jobs and growth in the EU via smarter use of financial resources.

The programme will provide at least 240 SMEs in the three countries with tailored business advice over the next two years, enabling them to access consultancy services to improve their competitiveness.

Greece, slowly emerging from a deep financial crisis, is expected to exit its third international bailout in August.

“One key factor holding back sustainable economic growth in Greece is the limited availability of specialised SME advisory services,” said Simon Barnes, head of EIB Advisory Services.

“This exciting new initiative will tackle this particular challenge and help companies across Greece to expand, create jobs and reach their full potential.”

The Juncker Plan is expected to trigger about 8 billion euros of investments in Greece, said the head of the EU Commission’s representation in Athens.

The plan’s central pillar is the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which provides a first-loss guarantee, allowing the EIB to invest in more, often riskier, projects.

As of February, projects and agreements approved for financing under EFSI are expected to mobilise more than 264 billion euros ($328 billion) in investments, supporting about 490,000 SMEs across all 28 EU member states.

The advisory programme is operated by the EBRD and supported by EIAH via funding from the EU, complemented by EBRD co-financing. Businesses with sales of less than 50 million euros and fewer than 250 employees are eligible.

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by David Goodman

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