The European Investment and Recovery Act - An ALDE contribution to revive growth in the EU

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1 19/11/2014 The European Investment and Recovery Act - An ALDE contribution to revive growth in the EU The response by Member States and the European Commission to the banking, sovereign debt and economic crisis has been at best half-baked: public and private debt is still excessively high, overall unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is at record high and economic growth remains sluggish. Confidence in the EU economy has not returned yet and the recovery has stalled. The European Union and the Euro area in particular have not yet avoided the risk of entering the next crisis: a crisis of prolonged stagnation. The failure not to act together on a European level to immediately recapitalise the EU banking sector, to implement a common policy to reduce public debt, to swiftly implement structural reforms and to devise an EU growth policy is about to result in a lost decade for the EU. However, even when confronted with the imminent threat of prolonging the crisis, Member States and the Commission remain complacent. The latest proposal by the Commission, the 300 billion investment plan intended to revive growth in the EU promises to channel 100 billion per year in the EU economy over a period of three years. It remains unclear whether it is new money or if the intention is to shift funds from one source to another. It remains equally unclear if private capital is to be attracted. Regardless of the two scenarios, given that in the euro area alone the investment gap stands at least at 700 billion and the annual investment gap is

2 calculated at around 180 billion, this falls well short of what is required to create the necessary economic dynamism. Just across the Atlantic the American Stimulus and Recovery Act of 2009 mobilized more than 800 billion dollars for infrastructure works, education, health, energy and federal tax incentives for families and small businesses. Today the US is growing again, more than 2 per cent. Today they are harvesting the results of the seed they planted. And in Europe, today, we are harvesting nothing - because we didn t plant anything. Therefore we believe a bolder and more decisive initiative is needed to spur growth, create jobs, restore competitiveness and safeguard the long-term economic stability of our continent. We need to continue the process of implementing deep structural reforms in Member States, particularly with regard to social security systems and labour markets, to strengthen the position of European economies in the face of global competition. We also need to continue the fiscal consolidation of Member States finances and reduce debt levels, which is not only important for fiscal stability reasons but also to free up fiscal space for Member States to invest instead of servicing their debt. Amongst authorities managing EU funds, we need to trigger a shift in culture away from grants and towards financial instruments. Furthermore, we should improve and simplify the existing legal framework to be better adapted to running a business and investing in the EU. This should range from facilitating the setting up of a business, opening up certain protected professions with levels of protection which are no longer justifiable, to speeding up judicial procedures as well as enhancing the possibilities for private investment in the EU by continuing to privatise large state owned companies, which are not economically viable, to mobilise more private capital. However, these measures alone will not lead to generate the necessary dynamics our economies need to grow in the short term when companies have no access to credit to invest and create jobs, especially for young people. Above all, we must bear in mind that without a coherent and pro investors regulatory framework, we will not be able to attract private funds.

3 Therefore we propose a European Investment and Recovery Act based on three elements: 1. A European Union investment fund issuing future bonds. 2. A European tax stimulus for households and small and medium sized businesses. 3. Accelerating the opening up of the markets for future growth. Our approach is without prejudice to the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, the independence of the ECB and the functioning of the ESM. A brief EU-US comparison: - EU is entering its seventh year of low growth. - Comparing year 2013 with year 2008: - GDP in the US is %, in the EU 1.1%. - Investment in the US 1.4 %, in the EU 14%. - EU invested 6 trillion less in its capital stock than non-european OECD countries. - GDP Growth in the EU in 2015 is expected to be 1.5%, in the euro area 1.1% - GDP Growth in the US in 2015 is expected to be 3.1 %. - Euro area annual net savings stand at more than 250 billion. - EU-28 net savings of companies and household are larger than 600 billion. Source: Eurostat, DIW 1. European Union Investment Fund and Future Bonds The current market conditions with historically low interest rates and the large multipliers by investment spending in a depressed economy call for the establishment of a European Union Investment Fund possibly limited in time. The Fund s objective is to increase the economy s long-term productivity growth rate by crowding in private capital, boosting private investment and mobilising savings of EU companies and households instead of public deficit financed stimulus programmes.

4 The European Union Investment Fund could be established under the auspices of the EIB using its infrastructure and expertise, including those of the EIF, with the aim of raising 700 billion, which is enough to close the investment gap. The Fund s operation would be guaranteed by Members States, which will ensure beneficial refinancing costs and attractive credit conditions for companies while at the same time decrease the lending risk and increase investment activity. EIB borrowing at EU level is fiscally neutral for Member States and would raise sufficient levels of capital that could never be raised through flexibility in the SGP, which makes the flexibility discussion redundant ensuring trust in the fiscal stability framework. Without prejudice to the independence of the ECB, it could also purchase such bonds, which would keep interest rates low and further stimulate aggregate demand. Capital returns from investment in the Fund could be exempted from taxes on capital to incentivise investment in the Fund and its long term projects. The Fund would invest the capital in large pan-european projects or national projects that have a knock-on effect for the European economy, and pass it on to non-financial sector companies, particularly SMEs, in form of attractive loan offers. Projects will only be funded in Member States that implement structural reforms as foreseen in the country specific recommendations adopted by Council and whose draft budgetary plan for the forthcoming year has received a positive opinion by the Commission will be eligible for fund financing. Small and medium sized enterprises - Access to finance is the most pressing problem for many SMEs. - The focus on bank financing remains with 85% of loans coming from banks very high. - Outstanding loans to companies from euro area banks have fallen by around 10% since beginning 2012 and end Loan interest rates for companies are on average in Germany 2.6 %, Netherlands 3.5%, Italy 4.7% and Portugal 6.1 %. Source: Morgan Stanley Research, ECB, BusinessEurope In order to restore confidence in the European project, it is fundamental that the public opinion is interested in the investment plan. The participation of the Fund in big projects

5 would bring in private investors, who currently consider engagement in large, long-term projects too risky and whose private savings are idle. Fund participation could come in the form of financial engineering such as leveraging private capital, of grants or of loans. The Fund could also directly finance projects and subsequently capitalise on it through privatisation. Both, the Fund and private investors will see a direct return on investment through the participation in public private partnerships in the projects and reap the profits of utilization. The investment in projects reaping high dividends and the fact that capital returns from investment in the fund could be tax exempted will encourage households to invest part of their savings in the fund, particularly in the current savings climate with very low interest rates on safe assets, and thereby make citizens participate in the European recovery. Mobilization of private savings, which is significant in the EU, would get European citizens directly involved in the growth and jobs in Europe and would allow them to work for the future of the continent and its youth. The mobilization of private savings could include the creation of a European savings account for citizens. However, it is important that the projects are selected on the basis of reasonable economic return as a lack thereof will lead to insufficient private investment. To shield private investors from the risk that state actors will try to politically capitalise on newly financed infrastructure for electoral reasons by for example lowering access or usage prices to nonprofitable levels, the Member State(s) benefitting from the infrastructure should guarantee the most risky part of the private investment corresponding to 8% of the financing with junior debt. A further 8% in a first mezzanine tranche would be guaranteed by the EIB and a second 4% mezzanine tranche by the EFSM. The remaining 80 % would be financed by the private sector in a senior tranche. The selection of infrastructure projects for investment should be based on productive, growth-enhancing sectors such as energy, ICT, education and transportation contributing to building an energy union, a digital union, a transport union and a knowledge-based technologically driven economy (see annex). The fund should also invest in selected social projects, such as social housing and schemes fighting youth unemployment.

6 The objective of offering loans to companies shall not be to invest in activities that without public intervention would not take place. Rather, it is to alleviate the microeconomic risk for private investors to channel money in sectors that create opportunities for growth in times of macroeconomic uncertainty. Loans should go to non-financial companies investing in modernising the economy and contributing to industrialisation complimenting the participation of the European Union Investment Fund in large pan-european infrastructure projects. Such loans would mean reduced interest rates on loans resulting in better loan offers and increasing demand for credit further stimulating private expenditure. II. European tax stimulus for households and SMEs The establishment of the European Union Investment Fund will take several months before it is fully operational. However, we have no time to lose. Therefore, and to immediately kick-start the EU economy to regain confidence, tax cuts for households and SMEs should be enacted on a European scale. Such tax cuts in Member States should be financed by EIB bonds. The EIB would launch a 12 months initiative financed by EIB bonds worth a maximum of 200 billion offering Member States the take-over of government spending on existing growth enhancing infrastructure investment in exchange for enacting tax cuts for households and SMEs of up to a level that corresponds to the actual tax cuts. Such large tax cuts would lead to the necessary fiscal expansion to stimulate growth. The programme would be voluntary and needs to respect Member States constitutional frameworks but would help Member States safeguarding essential future-oriented investment while fiscally consolidating and stimulating growth in the short-term. Participation of Member States would be conditional on implementing structural reforms as foreseen in the country specific recommendations adopted by Council and on having received a positive opinion on the draft budgetary plan for the forthcoming year by the Commission. Only expenditure that is approved by the EIB to be growth enhancing would be eligible for the programme and Member States shall be obliged to earmark future revenues to refinance the EIB investment that is not covered by the capital returns of the project. In this respect, much time can be saved in the geographical areas currently covered by approved macro-regional strategies: their Action Plans already identify in detail much needed cross-

7 border investments in the key sectors identified. EIB borrowing has no implications for EU fiscal rules and is therefore fiscally neutral for Member States. Currently, the EIB can borrow at 1.6 % on long-term maturities. III. Opening up of markets for future growth The EU needs to improve the conditions for investment through the creation of an efficient Single Market in capital, services and goods. In addition to creating a truly European Single Market, the EU needs to further strive for an ambitious external trade policy and for the opening up of foreign markets to spur growth. 1. Reducing administrative burden and improving regulation wherever possible We need to cut red tape and reduce administrative burden that make establishing and running business too costly. Any additional burden brought by new legislation should be compensated by an equal decrease of administrative burden in existing legislation. Furthermore, existing legislation should be screened with the aim to decrease administrative burden by at least 10 % by the end of This should not lead to the lowering of standards but the administrative processes need to be simplified. Moreover Member States need to change the bias in their corporate tax systems, which favours debt financing over equity financing and therefore penalises innovative companies and start-ups trying seeking equity financing. 2. Integrating EU capital markets We need to build a dynamic, resilient and diversified capital market to help create jobs and growth. The over-reliance on bank lending and the fact that our capital markets are underdeveloped when compared for example with the United States has hampered a swift return to growth. The most urgent task now is to undertake all measures that unify capital markets to sustain long term projects and facilitate access to funding for SMEs. Among these measures is the swift adoption of the European Long Term Investment Funds Regulation, which would help channelling funds to longer term infrastructure projects and SMEs. The Commission should also swiftly put forward a proposal on high quality securitisation benefitting SME borrowers and enabling institutional investors to have access

8 to financial products yielding them with long term stable returns. Further initiatives should include developing European markets for private placement, occupational and personal pension funds, the cross-border use of collateral and a framework for credit registers. 3. Completing the Single Market for Goods and Services We need to complete the single market in services and goods. The main objective has to be to increase competition, especially in highly regulated sectors with large investment gaps such as education and health care, to promote innovation, which triggers investment by companies that aim to stay ahead of or catch up with competitors. The creation of a truly European market for defence procurement would deliver huge savings. It is also essential that the Commission steps up enforcement measures on adopted EU laws, including speeding up of infringement procedures and ensuring fair competition by speedily investigating any abuses of dominant positions and monopoly practices, especially in energy, transport and digital sectors. It should also be envisaged to replace directives with a high lack of implementation by regulations to create a level playing field. All new single market legislation should in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and wherever appropriate, and principally, where there is no need for further discretion in the implementation of Union legislation, be based on regulations rather than directives as the preferred legal instrument for regulating the Single Market, and the instruments of control of implementation of these regulations have to be pushed forward. 4. Building an EU energy market The integration of EU energy markets has to be completed by establishing a monitoring system at EU level for energy supply security as well the adoption of a regulation on security of electricity supply that creates a solid legal EU security of supply framework. Further, a set of harmonised rules for trading gas and electricity should be implemented to create larger markets for the benefit of businesses and end consumers as well as a better link of wholesale and retail markets so that consumers also benefit from lower wholesale prices. There is also the need to review the renewable energy directive with a view to ensuring market based support mechanisms and enhanced European cooperation to achieve EU level targets of at least 27 %.

9 5. Accelerating the Digital Single Market The EU is lagging behind main competitors such as the United States in ICT investment, broadband roll-out and digital innovation, mainly because of the fragmentation of the digital single market but also because of the EU still looking at digital solutions as a threat more than as an opportunity. The digital single market needs to have a push by the swift adoption of the connected continent package and the establishment of a single European regulator, which is cornerstone to de-compartmentalising the existing single market in digital. From this point of view, net neutrality will have to be strictly secured in law in order to enable SMEs, NGOs and other social and economic actors to take advantage of all the opportunities of the digital market. In addition, we should have a modern copyright law that promotes European culture and digital innovation. Completing the digital single market will require building confidence in e-commerce, in particular by strengthening cyber security and e-privacy, and simplifying transactions. The right framework needs to be put in place to boost innovation and promote digital solutions, guarantee fair competition and enshrine net neutrality in law. We need a legislative proposal in the area of cloud computing, in order to respond to the lack of liability of cloud computing service providers and the inconsistency of transnational laws and regulations. In mobile payments, the substantial heterogeneity of commercial practices between Member States and the excessive costs of making crossborder payments prevent the market to grow faster. Finally, in the area of postal and parcel delivery, self-regulation should be encourage in order to fill considerable information gaps which exist in relation to the availability of various delivery services and associated delivery options both for consumers and e-retailers. The control of the implementation of these regulations by the Member States needs to be enhanced, establishing coordinated measures if the latter are not fully adopted.

10 Annex: Energy Union, Digital Single Market, Labour Mobility and Transportation Energy Union Building an energy union will require investment in a European electricity grid infrastructure, a gas supply infrastructure, including transportation and storage facilities, and measures to improve energy efficiency and exploiting bio-energy. Total investment requirements in the EU energy sector in the next decade are estimated at 628 billion. Investment requirements in EU electricity grid infrastructure alone, including cross-border infrastructure and smart transmission and distribution grids is estimated to be close to 100 billion. However, the Connected Europe Facility that was supposed to boost the single energy market only consists of 5.8bn. The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine has illustrated that the EU is in need of greater energy independence also to ensure cheaper energy prices. Decentralisation of energy production and distribution, empowering citizens to participate in the energy market as several municipal pilot projects are demonstrating - would greatly enhance Europe's energy security. Investment in natural gas infrastructure, including gas storage, is set to be at least 64 bn. But if we were able to develop a battery to store renewable energy, it would be a major game changer. Not only would it become much more lucrative to invest in renewable energy, we would also become more independent from Russia, our energy consumption would be a lot cheaper and our industry would be more competitive. Investment in energy efficiency will play an important part to reduce greenhouse gases. Investment requirements are even higher than those in the electricity sector. On top of the agenda should be the transformation of higher polluting energy installations into more environmentally friendly energy production facilities. Pilot projects have also shown that households with a smart meter can reduce their consumption by up to 30% without major interventions and without sacrificing comfort. But perhaps even more important is the large scale approach to improving the energy efficiency of buildings, which must become the biggest source of reduction of non-industrial emissions. In short, such investments will

11 enable Europe to make large leaps forward and to get the transformation to the non-fossil society under way. Source; European Commission, European Climate Foundation, IEA Digital Single Market Digitalisation has become one of the main drivers of global competition. More than ever before, growth and prosperity in Europe depend on digital infrastructure and services to further refining our skills, expanding our knowledge and the translation of both into new products and services. For more than a decade, Europe has fallen behind other economies in the competition for leading-edge digital products and services. When it comes to the development of internet, Europe does not have a leading position in the world. Moreover, even today, 30 % of Europeans have never used the internet. Europe has only 1% of penetration of fibre-based high-speed internet networks Japan is at 12% and South Korea at 15% and EU spending on ICT research and development stands at only 40% of the amount spent by the US. Additionally, in terms of the size of a country s internet economy, the internet economy of South Korea accounts for 7.3% of its GDP, Japan and the US for 4.7%, while the average of the EU trails behind at only 3.8%. Research shows that the increased roll-out of broadband infrastructure pays off economically. The EU budget for foresees only EUR 1 billion for ICT under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Most of this funding is in principle earmarked for support to digital services; only EUR 150m for infrastructure. Unfortunately, this is by far not enough. Europe should decide to massively invest in the digital economy. To countervail these trends and to support Europe s efforts in catching up, the European Investment Plan should (1) focus its financing on projects that help to accelerate the roll-out of very high-speed broadband networks, (2) stimulate the creation and adoption of productivity enhancing digital services, (3) close the digital gap in rural areas for high speed access and (4) enhance the security and resilience of ICT networks and applications through investments in EU-based infrastructure. Only in this way can the European Union create an open glass-fibre network on which all telecom operators can compete freely. This creates welfare and jobs, because a Digital

12 Europe offers many opportunities. For example, eprocurement could save public authorities 100 billion euros a year; cloud computing could be worth many times that to our economy. Add in the benefits of new online services, smart cities, smart grids, e-health or the Internet of Things and it becomes clear this is an investment well worth making. Source: BCG, European Commission Labour mobility, education and training The creation of a true area of a European labour market should help and be fundamental to revive growth in the EU and to fight unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. The EU Treaties recognize the freedom of establishment of European workers and entrepreneurs, but new measures are needed to allow citizens to fully take advantage of that liberty. The creation of instruments that allow unemployed people to look for jobs and to engage in international formation needs to be enhanced. The portability of welfare benefits (such as pensions) by these transnational job-searchers need to be ensured continuously even if they move from one Member State to another. Moreover, we need to invest more in improving education and vocational training, which will help producing a smart workforce for smart future growth-oriented sectors. Transportation Building and modernizing Europe s transportation infrastructure is a vital part of the liberal new, high-growth strategy for Europe. Transportation infrastructure is a critical foundation for sustainable economic growth, attracting business investment, facilitating basic trade and commerce, and allowing for the transport of goods locally, nationally, and worldwide. The potential boost to economic growth from investment in transportation infrastructure projects a new bridge or general maintenance, for example is both direct and indirect. Direct through the job creation resulting from construction works and then services provided by operators, indirect by raising the general level of competitiveness of the area concerned. The development and expansion of the TEN-Ts must be accelerated by injecting the necessary funds and the implementations of the Connecting Europe Facilities (CEF). Unfortunately, the Connecting Europe Facility includes only 26 billion for transport while investments needs in this area are estimated around 500 billion until Furthermore, so

13 far the construction of new high-speed lines has particularly failed. Our rail and road terminals are in many cases saturated, as are Europe s largest seaports. Investments should be urgently stepped up here too, so as to continue to guarantee the transport of (bulk) goods between European ports and industrial centres by rail, freeing up European motorways for passenger traffic. The CEF also includes the Galileo project, planned long ago, but still bogged down and prone to failures. We should also stress the importance to fulfil the European Single Sky to complete our internal market. Finally, we must achieve progress in the opening of rail and aviation markets. In the rail sector, national monopolies remain in many countries and prevent, sometimes in a very insidious way, newcomers from entering the market, with consequences for passengers in terms of quality, innovation and prices of transport services. As regards the aviation sector, Member States' continuous reluctance to go further on the way to a Single European Sky results in ineffective and costly flights with a high carbon footprint.

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