July 18, 2018 / 11:40 AM / a year ago

EU says investment plan has exceeded 315 billion euro target

FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a joint news conference with European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A plan to help fund projects across Europe and revive economic growth has exceeded its original financing target and created many hundreds of thousands of jobs, the European Commission said on Wednesday, countering scepticism expressed by EU auditors.

The EU executive launched the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in July 2015 with a target of mobilizing 315 billion euros (now $366 billion) of additional investment in three years, countering a fall in spending after the 2007-12 financial crises.

The Commission said the plan was now expected to trigger 335 billion euros in new investments across the 28 EU states.

“We surpassed the original 315 billion euros investment target and the European Fund for Strategic Investments is set to create 1.4 million jobs and increase EU GDP by 1.3 percent by 2020,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, citing European Union estimates.

The European Court of Auditors, which has a mandate to protect the financial interests of EU citizens, has said the plan may have produced no added value, because private investment made through the plan might have been made anyway.

However, the Commission said EFSI has so far “supported” more than 750,000 jobs and increased the bloc’s gross domestic product by 0.6 percent.

The plan is funded with 21 billion euros of EU guarantees and cash, of which 5 billion was provided by the European Investment Bank. Two thirds of the investment that it triggered came from the private sector, the commission said.

EU states and lawmakers decided last year to extend it until the end of the decade and expand its investment target to 500 billion euros.

The Commission said the biggest impact of the plan so far has been felt in countries that were hit harder by the crisis, citing Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by David Stamp

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