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The SME Initiative comes to Bulgaria: new opportunities for economic growth and jobs

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    Date: 02 March 2016

The EIB Group (EIB and EIF) has concluded an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the European Commission for the implementation of the SME Initiative in Bulgaria. The agreement was signed today in Sofia by EIF Chief Executive Pier Luigi Gilibert and the Bulgarian Minister of Economy Bojidar Loukarsky.

Bulgaria is contributing EUR 102 million from its European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to this new EU initiative, which will be leveraged with commercial lending through a risk-sharing mechanism. This will result in more SMEs benefiting from European resources on advantageous terms, such as reduced interest rates and improved collateral requirements. It is expected that more than EUR 600 million of new SME financing will be provided under this programme. This financial instrument will act as a catalyst for private investment and foster job creation.

Commenting on the new initiative, EIF Chief Executive Pier Luigi Gilibert said: “This joint initiative should generate more than EUR 600 million of SME financing over the coming years. Our previous engagement with EU funding in Bulgaria helped to support growing equity markets and now we can continue to support Bulgarian SMEs.” EIB Vice-President Laszlo Baranyay added: “This pioneering initiative represents clear progress towards using the structural funds more efficiently and will ensure that funding reaches a greater number of small and medium-sized businesses on highly favourable terms”.

Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: "The SME initiative is a concrete example of how ESI Fund programmes contribute to the objectives of growth and jobs of the Investment Plan. The SME Initiative does not require co-financing from national or regional resources; without tapping into limited public budget, it is a major opportunity for job creation and economic growth in Bulgaria."

Bojidar Loukarsky, Minister of Economy of Bulgaria, said: “The SME Initiative is a firm step towards supporting the bone of our economy on its way to increased competitiveness and enhanced innovation performance. We take pride in our entrepreneurial potential and it would be through initiatives like this that we would evidence an exponential growth.”

The SME Initiative programme for Bulgaria, adopted in October 2015 and funded by €102 million from the European Regional Development Fund, is part of a broader initiative of the Commission and the EIB Group, in line with the Investment Plan, to encourage Member States to double their use of European Structural and Investment Funds invested through financial instruments in 2014-2020.

Following the signature today, the European Investment Fund will shortly publish an open call inviting banks and other financial intermediaries to apply. Once selected, these banks and other financial intermediaries will make new funding opportunities available for SMEs. The first loans to SMEs should be available by the end of the year.

Background information

The SME Initiative is a joint financial instrument of the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.  It was designed as a fast and effective response instrument to increase lending to the real economy, create jobs and stimulate growth.

The European Commission adopted the Operational Programme SME initiative for Bulgaria on 13 October 2015 to boost the competiveness of Bulgaria's small business through increased access to finance.

More information:

Operational Programme under the SME Initiative in Bulgaria

Brochure on combining ESI Funds with the EFSI

ESI Funds Open Data Platform

Investment Plan for Europe

About EIF

The European Investment Fund's (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank group. Its central mission is to support Europe's micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment.

About EIB

The EIB is the EU’s long-term lending institution and is owned by the EU Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment, contributing to growth, jobs, regional convergence and climate action in Europe and beyond.

To maximise growth and job creation, the EIB targets four priority areas: innovation and skills, SMEs, climate action and strategic infrastructure across the EU.

Press contacts:

EIF: David Yormesor
E-mail: d.yormesor@eif.org
Tel.: +352 42 66 88 346

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Tel.: +352 4379 83334
Press Office: +352 4379 21000

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