The European Commission adopted today an Operational Programme worth 100 million euro from the European Regional Development Fund to ease access to finance and improve the competitiveness of SMEs in the South of Italy. Investments under this programme, in the form of securitization of existing loans portfolios, are expected to generate €600 million of fresh loans for SMEs, thanks to the leverage effect of private investment.

European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "Helping Italian SMEs get access to finance to grow their businesses is a major priority as we know that they have struggled in the past. SMEs provide 80% of employment in Italy so it's essential we support their growth as much as possible at EU level. The SME initiative that we are adopting today should generate €600 million in new fresh loans for SMEs in Southern Italy which is very positive news. This goes hand in hand with the good work being undertaken by the European Investment Fund who have signed agreements with Italian banks CREDEM and BPER to provide new loans to SMEs, backed by the EU guarantee EFSI."

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: "Italy is now in the leading group of EU countries benefiting from this innovating tool. Small businesses are the engines of growth and job creation in Europe and improving their access to finance is crucial, as it is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship. I congratulate the Italian authorities on signing up for the SME initiative and I encourage other EU Member States to do the same!"

Italy is the fourth EU country after Spain, Malta and Bulgaria to adopt such an investment programme. This is in line with the objectives of the Investment Plan to double the use of European Structural and Investment Funds channelled through innovative financial instruments.

The Italian Authorities and the European Investment Fund will now define the technical details of the funding agreement and then select the financial intermediaries participating in the scheme.

Background

The SME Initiative is a joint financial instrument of the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.  It was designed as a fast and effective response instrument to increase lending to the real economy, create jobs and stimulate growth. It is a "ready-made" programme, 100% ERDF funded, with no need for national or regional co-financing. Implementation has already started in Spain, Malta and Bulgaria. Romania and Finland have also formally announced their intention to adopt the SME Initiative.

The funding provided under the programme will be combined with additional funding (2%) through COSME, managed jointly by the Commission and by the European Investment Fund, as well as with senior risk coverage provided by the European Investment Bank.

The enterprise landscape in the South of Italy is dominated by individual enterprises (around 1.2 million), micro enterprises (around 125 000) and SMEs (around 27 000). SMEs alone in the South of Italy represent 284 000 jobs.

More information:

The SME Initiative

Financial Instruments in Cohesion Policy

Cohesion Policy and Italy