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EU Progress Micro-Finance Seminar

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Good afternoon everybody and welcome to Parliament Buildings.

I’m very pleased that you could accept our invitation to today’s event because you have a vital role to play in helping us to get our economy back on its feet, to encourage new enterprise and to create badly-needed new jobs.

The reason we’re here is to discuss a new EU initiative to stimulate lending to would-be entrepreneurs and small companies who are finding it difficult to access finance, even for relatively small amounts, from traditional sources.

As part of its overall response to the economic downturn, the EU hopes that the new scheme, PROGRESS, will support enterprise and reduce unemployment. PROGRESS is a combined initiative by the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.

The EU expects to provide up to €500 million by way of support over the next 3 yrs to organisations like yours to increase the amount of finance available to micro-companies and individuals with a particular emphasis on the social economy.

The scheme won’t provide direct loans to potential beneficiaries but rather, it will offer different types of financial support to micro-finance providers to encourage them to increase lending and to assist the disadvantaged who might otherwise have little chance of accessing finance.

I mentioned a figure of 500 million € earlier: I should make it clear that this is the total value of the support the European Investment Fund hopes to lever over the coming 3 years.

However, there are no pre-set allocations for different EU countries or regions so the amount of support that we can secure for Northern Ireland will depend on the number of successful applications coming from financial intermediaries like you.

I think we would all agree that in these times, it is vital that we should take advantage of every opportunity on offer to help businesses and individuals who are trying to create employment in the most difficult circumstances.

That is the reason we have invited you here today. To make you aware of PROGRESS, if you’re not already, and to encourage you to apply if the support on offer meets your needs and the needs of potential clients.

The first call for applications is now open in the form of loan guarantees so I hope that what you will hear today will be of direct interest to you and hopefully,  will lead to a number of practical applications.

We won’t be able to cover everything today but we will do our best to keep you informed about new developments in the future under PROGRESS so that we can take maximum advantage of it in the coming years to help grow our economy and provide much-needed jobs.

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