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Public Debate with Dr. Werner Hoyer, President of the EIB on 19 January 2018

On the 19 January 2018 our Public Debate with Dr. Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, on the topic “Role and Perspec­tives of the European Investment Bank as a Catalyst for Economic Growth in the EU”, took place in the European House in Berlin. The intro­ductory remarks were given by Richard Kühnel, Head of the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Germany. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, Director of the Institute for European Politics (IEP), moderated the event.

In his opening words, Mr. Kühnel remem­bered one of our co-founders, Arno Krause, who had passed away shortly before. Mr. Kühnel remem­bered Arno Krause as an inspiring role model in the process of shaping Europe, who has, owing to his relentless dedication, coined our institute from the beginning. Mr. Kühnel expressed great gratitude, before giving the floor to Mr. Jopp, who welcomed Mr. Hoyer and all attendant guests to the event before giving a brief intro­duction to the topic.

Mr. Hoyer started out by empha­sizing the signif­i­cance of the EIB as “the last undetected treasure in the history of integration” by referring to the mission of the bank – the collab­o­rative economic devel­opment and the offset between the states – which is still relevant today, 60 years after its foundation. Hoyer then went through the EIB’s history, commencing with the Treaties of Rome, major challenges during the times of financial crisis, before finishing up with the annual Final Conference 2017, which took place in Luxem­bourg one day before. It was especially important for Mr. Hoyer to highlight one concern regarding the self-conception of the bank. He under­lined that the EIB acts as a devel­opment bank for national economies, rather than for states exclu­sively. It provides funding for projects in the EUs’ interest, Hoyer continued, but is also dependent on the support of private banks, especially in the context of creating incen­tives for private investments.

The banks’ role as Crowding-In-Bank that attracts private capital, close relation­ships with national states, EU insti­tu­tions and national banks, is, in Mr. Hoyer’s opinion, crucial for the long-term success of the EU bank.

Today’s narrative of the European integration, is the “the Europeans’ ability to assert themselves in the global­ization”. He reasoned that, in order to be well-prepared for the great challenges of a globalized world economy, the focus on three goals is substantial:

1) Closer cooper­ation with the member states, insti­tu­tions and private banks, which should strengthen the cohesion within the Union and approach struc­tural weaknesses. National solo-efforts are an “illusion”, Hoyer reasoned, and pursuing them is not sustainable. Respec­tively, Hoyer called the “Brexit” a “great nuisance”, as Great Britain’s share of the EIB’s capital is as high as 16 percent, and as the Brits have always been reliable partners. As a result of Great Britain leaving the Union, many long term projects could be jeopar­dized, due to about 100 billion Euros lending volume that will have to be cut over the next years. Hoyer deplored these devel­op­ments which are tangible for the EIB.

2) Devel­opment cooper­ation. The EIB operates outside of the EU and reinforces its efforts on other conti­nents. Mr. Hoyer suggested that the cooper­ation with partners on other conti­nents is a crucial factor, as small investment can have a serious impact, when using modern technology and digital­ization. If chances are taken, whilst relying on the advan­tages of Crowding-In and cooper­ation, a “quantum leap” could be possible in near future, especially with regard to the sustainable devel­opment goals, proclaimed by the UN.

3) Lastly, Mr. Hoyer mentioned climate financing. The EIB dedicated itself to the climate goals formu­lated in the Treaty of Paris, Hoyer elabo­rated, and was the Avant­garde behind the MDBs. Additionally, the EIB acts as the world’s largest emitter of environ­mental bonds, so-called, climate awareness bonds, a market that currently booms. All the sectors mentioned above, constitute great chances for the Europeans, partic­u­larly as Europes’ economic devel­opment is currently flour­ishing. Hoyer then concluded with an plea for strength­ening the Europeans within the globalized economy: “To be coura­geous, to create new instru­ments and to keep the common goals in view!”.

During the following lively discussion with the audience, questions especially addressed the EIB’s role as a devel­opment bank and its relationship with repre­sen­ta­tives of the economic sectors and unions, as well as the impact of Brexit on the EIB’s loan volume. Hoyer conceded that there are still many uncer­tainties that need clari­fi­cation. However, new contracts with the UK are needed in order to create legal certainty and to solve financial issues. Mr. Hoyer assured the guests that the EIB was well-consol­i­dated and would not lose its AAA-rating. However, being a committed European, Hoyer managed to find one advantage coming out of the Brexit: never before did he experience “the European citizens being as united and clear”.