Paris conference to advance Euro-Mediterranean banking

FEMIP has been operational since October 2002 and aspires to bring together under one roof the whole range of the European Investment Bank's services for promoting the economic development of the Mediterranean partner countries.

"Improvement of dialogue on structural reform processes in the Mediterranean region is an important aspect of the reinforced FEMIP. The organization structure of FEMIP facilitates an enhancement if the operating environment for the private sector as well as project and donor coordination." [Taken from the official EU Web site] The Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) has been operational since October 2002. It aspires to bring together under one roof the whole range of the European Investment Bank's services for promoting the economic development of the Mediterranean partner countries. In line with the Barcelona Process and the European Neighborhood Policy, it has the task of encouraging the modernization and opening up of the partner countries' economies. In accordance with EU data, between October 2002 and December 2006, the European Investment Bank provided finance totaling nearly € 6 billion in support of investment projects in the region. The sum of € 8.7b. is to be made available to the nine Mediterranean partner countries for the period 2007-2013. The EU claims that FEMIP places greater emphasis on helping to foster private sector activity in the region as a way to underpin growth and generate employment opportunities. Financial support is directed towards private sector projects and also to public projects that help to create an enabling environment for the private sector to flourish. Projects that can be financed under FEMIP can come from any of the eligible sectors: Energy - power generation, transmission and distribution, gas transmission and distribution, renewable energies; Transport and telecom - airports, air transport, air traffic control, roads and highways, ports, bridges, telecom; Environment - water supply and treatment, wastewater collection and treatment, solid waste disposal and treatment, pollution abatement, irrigation. Lending in Israel and other Mediterranean countries FEMIP supports investment projects presented by public and private sector promoters. The financing can take the form of loans from own resources or risk capital from EU budgetary resources. In all cases, FEMIP support may not exceed a maximum of 50% of the project cost. For investment projects with an investment cost of over € 25 million, FEMIP lends directly to the project promoter. Financing is tailored to the type of investment and appropriate security is sought. For smaller scale projects with an investment cost of less than € 25 million, FEMIP channels long-term loans (generally six to eight years) to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), or to local authorities for infrastructure investment, through local intermediary banks and leasing institutions which take the project risk. FEMIP can help in the preparation and development of viable investment projects by providing grants for technical assistance. Technical assistance funds support activities linked to a potential or existing project and are earmarked for project design and management as well as for initiatives contributing towards economic reform, development of local financial markets and privatization. Under a new Trust Fund, FEMIP manages funds on behalf of donors, making finance available as technical assistance grants - for initiatives not directly linked to a project - e.g. policy, regulatory and institutional reform, sector development strategies, capacity building - that help foster private sector development, and risk capital participations - for equity-type operations e.g. seed capital, injection of equity into privatized industries. Annual ministerial meetings are held to provide a forum for Finance Ministers from the 27 EU Member States to meet their 10 counterparts from the Mediterranean partner countries (including Israel) to discuss policy reforms and review FEMIP's activities. The ministerial meetings are preceded by regular meetings of experts from the 37 countries, in which issues of common and topical interest are explored and recommendations put forward for consideration. The Ministerial meetings are complemented by a high-level preparatory body of experts who meet twice a year. The conclusions taken from these meetings are intended to aid promoters in the Mediterranean region improve project preparation and implementation. In 2003, an external office was opened in Cairo, Egypt, to cover relations with the region. This has been complemented by the establishment of an office in Tunis, Tunisia, and one in Rabat, Morocco. The offices take on all the representational tasks of a FEMIP presence in the area, and are supposed to help to optimize project identification and monitoring and facilitate the implementation of technical assistance schemes. FEMIP Conference 2007 The second FEMIP Conference, which will be held in Paris this weekend (March 22-23, 2007) is being organized jointly by the European Investment Bank and the European Banking Federation. The conference is aimed at deepening the exchange of experiences and raising awareness of the issues involved through interactive dialogue with the leading experts on these matters. According to the official announcement taken out by the EU, the distinctive feature of the 2007 FEMIP Conference will be to involve the Euro-Mediterranean banking sector in thinking about these issues, a process that will be informed by accounts of innovative practices developed in both the Euro-Mediterranean area and other regions around the globe. The author is head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov Law Firm.