STRASBOURG, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The president of the European Commission proposed on Wednesday to double the capacity of an investment fund for boosting EU growth and jobs, while launching a new scheme to help countries at the source of huge migrant flows to Europe.
Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the Commission plans to double to 630 billion euros ($707 billion) the capacity of its investment vehicle for Europe, and will launch a new 88 billion euro scheme to help growth in Africa and the Middle East.
The idea behind the new fund for external investments is to create infrastructure and jobs that will reduce the incentive for people to head to Europe. In a chaotic wave of immigration last year, 1.3 million people reached the southern shores of the European Union, prompting bitter divisions over how to share responsibility for them.
“Today we are launching an ambitious investment plan for Africa and the neighbourhood which has the potential to raise 44 billion euros in investment. It can go up to 88 billion if member states contribute,” Juncker told lawmakers.
He also proposed to double the capacity and the duration of
the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), launched in 2015 with the aim of generating investments of at least 315 billion euros by 2018, of which 116 billion have been already raised.
The fund focuses mostly on infrastructure, energy, research and education. Some EU countries are still grappling with double-digit unemployment rates since the global financial crisis.
Juncker proposed to increase the level of investments generated by the fund to 500 billion euros by 2020 and 630 billion in 2022. “With member states contributing, we can get there even faster,” he said.
The fund relies on private and national contributions to reach its targets. In its current form it uses 21 billion euros of EU cash and guarantees to attract private investments for 15 times that amount. ($1 = 0.8912 euros) (Writing by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)