EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council
Thank you very much and good morning Ministers and Colleagues. Let me start by commending Thomas (Wieser) for his tremendous leadership of the Wise Persons Group, also, dedication of all members of that Group. They had a difficult and complex task, to say the least, and I think they’ve produced an excellent Report actually, and with much of which I can agree.
Thank you also to the Finnish Presidency for inviting me here today. I am going to be relatively brief and share five reflections.
The first reflection is on the vision as set out in the report. I think the report is surely right that the priorities for Europe and their urgency: climate change, the Neighbourhood, Africa, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. And I think the Report is also right in saying that the European Union, while clearly the largest donor in the world, frankly, can have much greater impact and much greater visibility as well.
Second reflection is on the system. I think the report correctly identifies the requirements for a system that delivers, maximising our collective impact. And it’s one of alignment, one of shared priorities. I think there is work to be done on that. I think the report is also very good at setting out the key features for a system that delivers, as Thomas said, development impact quickly and crowds in the private sector, which is necessary to achieve the SDGs.
In this regard, I also particularly urge political support for the Report’s recommendation on an open architecture in the MFF to allow the EU to draw upon the full skillset of all the development actors within the framework of NDICI. And I again agree with the Report on how the European policy coordination should be improved.
My third reflection is on delivery. I think we have to leverage the strengths of the system. We need to reform what needs reforming, of course. But we also need to reinforce what works. And I think, as Finance Ministers you are responsible for public finances; I think it’s essential to build on existing proven instruments and self-sustaining institutions as much as we can.
An effective development model, as Thomas set out, requires the right business model, the right expertise, the right know-how and that cannot be staffed and built up overnight. So while a greenfield institution might be attractive, I think, frankly, it’s unlikely to be cost-efficient, it’s unlikely to be quick enough, and it’s unlikely to deliver, I would suggest, quite the best outcomes as well.
In fact, I would be concerned that the design and shareholding of a mixed ownership bank will miss one of the core concepts, I think, of partnership with recipient countries, because they would not be within the governance of that bank. I think that option also risks, as again Thomas set out, risks undermining, possibly cannibalising, parts of system that are already working well.
And I think it’s clearly recognised in the report that EBRD, the institution that I have the privilege to lead, already has the policy expertise, the people on the ground, the risk appetite, the know-how to deliver.
And we can do more, more on climate; we are already over 40 percent of our business, more on Africa, extending our operations from North Africa to Sub-Saharan Africa, if the shareholders agree to that.
And indeed, EBRD has, frankly, already consistently delivered for Europe, whether it’s in the Western Balkans, whether it’s in Ukraine, whether it’s Georgia, Central Asia and, of course, now the Southern Neighbourhood. And we have done that, designing and implementing policy reforms, with the Commission and the Member States in those countries.
And I think, we’ve shown also that we can work in very diverse environments. We have expanded our geography four times and we’ve worked in very diverse places. We now also do much more work on gender, on inclusion, on refugees and job creation too. Things that are classical development issues that you see in the Sub-Saharan Africa as well.
And key to that is having people on the ground, frankly. One third, more than a thousand of EBRD staff, are deployed in our resident offices, over fifty resident offices in thirty eight countries. So I think we need to build on that.
My fourth reflection is on partnership. I think Europe has to present itself as being open and inclusive and trying to strengthen the multilateral system in the way the Report has set out.
And I think we do that within EBRD by having a shareholding structure, which clearly has a European majority, but works very closely with non-Europeans and countries of operations to try and forge a consensus that actually delivers on Europe’s development objectives. And that shareholding structure helps us forge strong and close alliances with the Commission and other international institutions, in particular the IMF and the World Bank.
The fifth and last reflection is on the way ahead. I think, as the report quite rightly says, EBRD is already a strong anchor in the architecture. We can do more.
And I think I like very much the option one in the report, because it takes the architecture logic to the next level. And under that option, EBRD would closely cooperate, as now, with all European actors and we would continue to value partnerships, crowd-in the private sector and other development actors.
And the key question really, I think, with thirty shareholders here in this room of the EBRD, is really, I think, one not of technical or legal issues, it’s one of essentially a strategic, political question: We’ve defined a common vision with non-European shareholders in the EBRD across the thirty-year history of the Bank.
I actually don’t think there is a need for additional feasibility studies on option one. That is because the question of EBRD’s value added, its capital capacity, its human resource requirements and also any legal changes to its constitution that might be required are already being studied.
And we will have a progress report with the shareholders; we are working with them already in our Board, that progress report will be with you by the end of this year. We are due to be preparing the next strategy, five-year strategy for approval next May. And that includes the question of further geographical expansion to Africa and even more on climate, as highlighted in the WPG report.
So what I think is really required, is swift outreach now on the politics and a transparent engagement process that explores whether there is a political agreement that can be reached between EU and non-EU shareholders of the EBRD. And the Annual Meeting next week of the IMF and World Bank is a good opportunity for that discussion; many of you will be there. Nadia Calviño, our Chair of Governors, will of course be there and can help with that discussion.
And we, on the management side, our job is to really help you in your deliberations with that. So we will be very open to provide any information and data you need to help that discussion between the shareholders of the EU and non-EU.
Thank you very much.