EU's Bank Urges Bringing in Investors to Fund Refugee Projects

  • European Investment Bank head seeks role for private funds
  • Sees destabilizing financial effect beyond Syrian crisis

European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer urged EU leaders to consider tapping investors to help fund aid projects in nations near Syria as a way for Europe to ease its refugee crisis. 

The European Union’s 28 governments, which are the EIB’s shareholders, have been slow to take a broader view of the challenges posed by poverty, terror and climate change that are prompting people in the Middle East and Africa to migrate to Europe, Hoyer said in an interview.

Werner Hoyer

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“The destabilizing effects of the migration flows go well beyond the Syrian refugee crisis,” Hoyer said by phone. “If this is to be approached in a serious fashion, it has an enormous finance-policy dimension that hasn’t been sufficiently addressed so far.”

EU leaders plan to discuss Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II at a summit in Brussels starting Thursday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country took in more than 1 million refugees last year, is seeking to enlist Turkey in a plan to keep more of them on its soil in return for EU aid.

That’s where the Luxembourg-based EIB could help, because building homes, hospitals and schools requires huge investments, Hoyer said in an interview Saturday from Munich, where he attended an international security conference.

Guarantees Needed

The EIB says it’s the largest international financial institution active in the Mediterranean and Middle East region, though most of its lending is in Europe. Expanding its role to include funding for crisis-stricken countries by private investors would require approval by EU governments.

Similar to the EU’s European Fund for Strategic Investments, known as the Juncker fund, non-EU countries that need aid could benefit from leveraging European taxpayer money by inviting private investors, Hoyer said. Such projects would need guarantees that require shifting funds in the EU’s budget. Hoyer suggested that could be done at the next review of the EU’s medium-term budget plan at the end of this year.

The EIB could provide as much as 23 billion euros ($25.9 billion) of financing to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa over the next five years if the bank’s governing bodies agreed, Hoyer said in a presentation at a donor conference for Syria in London on Feb. 4.

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