The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly already having a significant impact on everybody’s daily life. We send our best wishes to all our stakeholders and their families at this difficult time, and particularly in some of the worst hit areas of Europe. On the positive side, we already notice the spirit of solidarity shining through, bringing communities and people together in new ways, and in response to the physical constraints we face. As part of that, we have realised that fi-compass has also become a strong community of practitioners across all EU Member States, helping to also foster professional and personal contacts between individuals.
The need for action to address the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis is immediate. The EU and Member States, as well as the EIB Group, are introducing a wide range of measures to help support employment during this period. This includes, of course, the European Commission’s Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII), and the EIB Group’s support package for businesses, including through national promotional banks and other intermediaries.
ESIF financial instruments have the potential to play an important role too in mobilising more affordable and tailored financing to support the real economy. EU Structural Funds and national resources can be used to scale up existing financial instruments to support SMEs through loan and/or guarantee products. Grants in the form of interest rate subsidies may also be introduced to make loans to business more affordable. Extending loan repayment periods, introducing temporary payment ‘holidays’ or moratoriums, and potentially combining grant funding with existing financial instruments are some of the ideas that MAs and other stakeholders could consider to help alleviate the economic impact.
During this period, fi-compass will continue to operate and we are introducing a number of new initiatives to support managing authorities and their partners to respond to the crisis. Under our #stayathome programme of activities we will be offering:
- Regular news updates on new initiatives launched by the European Commission, the EIB Group and other institutions;
- More frequent newsletter mailings summarising the recent developments and sharing emerging best practice;
- New content, to support Member States looking to take advantage of the new flexibilities introduced by the European Commission under the CRII. A factsheet is being prepared describing how ESIF financial instruments can be used to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak;
- Responsive communications where fi-compass experts from the EIB and the European Commission will respond to commonly frequently asked questions;
- We are also exploring the potential to develop one or more webinars on key topics during this period; and
- #stayathome social media campaign to disseminate material as widely as possible.
We will at the same time, maintain our usual output of materials in support of both current financial instrument operations and the development of proposals by Member States for the use of financial instruments in the next programming period.
As a result of the current crisis, it was necessary to postpone the DG AGRI Flagship Conference until later in the year. Other smaller events have also been put on hold. We hope to be able to bring forward a short programme of events later in the year, subject to the current restrictions on travel being lifted, which would include events for ERDF and ESF practitioners as well as the DG AGRI conference. In view of the current uncertainty, we would, however, propose to hold the next FI Campus event in 2021.
In the meantime, we will continue to develop and publish new materials including the results of some major studies undertaken over the past twelve months designed to support the implementation of financial instruments in the next programming period. We also hope that Member States take advantage of the Country Data pages to share information about how they are responding to the current crisis. If you have any material you wish to publish on your Country Data page please get in touch through the link on the webpage.
If you have any questions or ideas about how financial instruments can support the response to the COVID-19 we are keen to hear from you.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.