The Slovenia Times

EIB: Slovenia Should Optimise Use of EU Funds



Speaking on the margins of a visit to Slovenia, Hoyer said his stay in Ljubljana was related to the upcoming seven-year EU financial perspective which gets underway next year. "The question for every member is how to make best use of funds provided by the EU," Hoyer told the STA.

He said talks with central bank Banka Slovenije, the Finance Ministry, prime minister and mayors would focus on optimising the use of EU funds. "Now is the time to recalibrate cooperation with the EIB in blending EU funds with those of the bank."

He believes EIB financial instruments present an extensive potential for Slovenia, either directly or in cooperation with the European Commission through through mechanisms such as the Jessica instrument for the development of city municipalities.

"We also have a lot to offer in the area of energy efficiency," he said. In Ljubljana, for example, EIB could help fund renovation of apartment blocks to improve energy efficiency, Hoyer said, adding that energy projects were another area of interest for the EIB.

Being a member of the EU Council formed by finance ministers, Hoyer said Slovenia has been in the centre of attention. "This is a reason to encourage the government and other stakeholders to speed up the process of cleaning up the banking system. Slovenian companies needs reliable banks with sufficient capital."

"Enormous efforts are underway in Slovenia to solve these problems and one of the issues is to encourage the political leaders to move forward with this process."

The process of cleaning bank balance sheets is in the hands of national authorities, he said, adding that the EIB can provide advice. "I have to say that I appreciate and admire the courage and resolve of the government in this area. It's difficult. They are on the right track, but they have to speed up the efforts."

He said that fixing the banking system was also important from the perspective of cooperation with the EIB. "The EIB does not have subsidiaries in the various countries and operates through local banking partners."

He warned that if the banking system is not in good shape and the EIB cannot find the right banking partners, Slovenia could lose out on the opportunities presented.

Hoyer said that cooperation between Slovenia and the EIB was good and that Slovenia had nothing to be scared of from his visit. "On the contrary, you should be happy. We come with good intentions."

Asked about potential projects in Slovenia which the EIB could help finance, Hoyer said that the EIB is close to confirming the EUR 270m project of hydro-electric power plants on the Sava.

"This project is very interesting because it combines power production and flood protection," Bernucci said. The EIB is also weighing a EUR 50m investment in the Brestanica coal-fired power plant.

He stressed that the list of potential projects government for the coming years was extensive. "The new passenger terminal at the Ljubljana airport, the question of Telekom Slovenije and its future. There is a broad spectre that goes beyond daily lending activities."

Asked about the construction of the new coal-fired generator at the Termoelektrarna Šoštanj (TEŠ), Bernucci said that the EIB was committed to the EUR 440m financial deal signed with Slovenia despite cost overruns and alleged mismanagement.

"We have reviewed the project a number of times, we just did it again this year. We are committed to our contractual obligations, but we also take information on alleged irregularities or even corruption seriously and work closely with the European Anti-Fraud Office and other institutions.

"As soon as we have something tangible, we will take appropriate action, as we have a zero tolerance policy to such issues. But so far, we don't see that.

"As long as the project is in line with established policies of the EU and this nation, there is no way for us to simply withdraw because the project has become unpopular ... It would be right for those who are making these claims of wrongdoing to provide evidence."


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