This event focused on the implementation of financial instruments under the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds. Managing authorities, financial intermediaries, bodies implementing or considering the implementation of financial instruments under ESI funds were able to engage in lively discussions with representatives of the European institutions and the European Investment Bank, providing, thus, remarkable learning and networking opportunities for everyone involved.
By bringing together practitioners of all levels, this ambitious fi-compass event clearly demonstrated that financial instruments are no longer deployed by a "small group of pioneers", but they are now mainstreamed in all Member States. In a context of increasingly scarce public resources, it is essential to stimulate more sound investment on the ground and financial instruments can mobilise complementary private sector financing. Significant progress was already made in the 2007-2013 programming period and the data collection regarding the current period is very promising. The challenge is now how to take full advantage of the enhanced scope of financial instruments.
Participants were given a global overview of the many advantages as well as the different obstacles encountered when deploying financial instruments under ESI funds during a number of panel sessions and thematic workshops. In particular, two case studies on the use of financial instruments under the European Social Fund (ESF) were presented: the National Fund for Social Entrepreneurship (Poland) and the Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund 2014-2020 (Lithuania). Presentations of both case studies illustrated the different stages of the financial instrument's lifecycle from the design phase to implementation. The Polish National Fund for Social Entrepreneurship delivers loans and counter-guarantees for social economy enterprises in order to achieve better social entrepreneurship and social inclusion. The Lithuanian Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund has been providing low-interest loans in combination with cost-free trainings for SMEs and start-ups in order to ensure their sustainable development. All stakeholders stressed the importance of providing final recipients with soft-support measures in order to help them overcome the administrative burden they are often faced with. Moreover, it was clearly highlighted that establishing synergies among the different stakeholders is essential in order to successfully implement ESF financial instruments. The Polish and the Lithuanian cases are a continuation of the previous financial instrument, which was deployed in the 2007-2013 programming period and generated a remarkable amount of legacy resources ready for re-investment. Overall, the event provided a unique platform for all stakeholders to learn from experts and peers and to explore new possibilities for the implementation of ESF financial instruments.