STRASBOURG, France (AFP) – European Com-mission chief Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled a
huge 315-billion-euro investment plan Wednes-day to “kickstart” the stalling economy, saying it would show the world that Europe is back in business.
The eagerly awaited plan, the keystone of Juncker’s five-year mandate, involves the EU setting up a 21-billion-euro (US$26 billion) fund with the aim of drawing in 15 times that amount in private investment.
Juncker hopes the proposal will boost efforts to create desperately needed jobs as well as growth amid concerns that Europe’s failure to recover from the financial crisis is dragging the world economy down with it.
“Europe needs a kickstart and today the commission is providing the jump cable,” Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “We need to send a message to Europe and to the rest of the world: Europe is back in business.”
The former Luxembourg prime minister said he had a vision of children in the Greek city of Thessaloniki going to a school filled with computers, and French drivers charging their electric cars by the side of a motorway.
His announcement comes a day after Pope Francis said in an address to the same parliament that Europe had become an “elderly and haggard” grandmother, and urged it to reclaim global lea-dership.
The new European Fund for Strategic Invest-ment must be approved by leaders of the 28-nation EU – which together represents the world’s largest economy with a population of more than 500 million people – at a summit in December.
Juncker took office as head of the European Commission – the EU’s executive branch – on November 1 and immediately vowed to unveil the plan by Christmas so that it could be up and running as soon as possible.
“I promised to present an ambitious investment package by Christmas. Today Christmas has come early,” he told parliament.
There have been criticisms that the fund contains no new money and only re-engineers existing funds, and of the calculation that the seed money will attract 15 times the initial amount.
But Juncker rejected them.