The Investment Plan for Europe, better known as Juncker's plan, is one of the European Commission's (EC) top priorities to improve competitiveness, growth, employment and investments in the next three years and an opportunity for Croatia's economy, it was heard on Wednesday at a presentation of the plan in Zagreb, organised by the EC Representation in Croatia and the European Investment Bank (EIB) office in Zagreb.

The head of the EC Representation for Croatia, Branko Baricevic, underscored that the EC recognises investments as an important prerequisite for economic stability and growth and that it has adopted the plan aimed at mobilising capital, facilitating the preparation of plans and removing barriers to investments.

"During the economic crisis in Europe investments contracted by 15% compared with 2007, which led to a gap in growth prospects, particularly with regard to the USA and Japan," Baricevic said.

Director-General of the European Fund for Strategic Investment in the EIB, Wilhelm Molterer, said that the fund will attempt to mobilise private capital for strategic investments and that it has 21 billion euros at its disposal, of which 5 billion euros is earmarked for small and medium enterprises and 16 billion euros for innovations. 

This plan is vital to put Europe back on the path of growth and competitiveness, Molterer said, adding that the EFSI did not have set quotas for individual member states or sectors.

He warned that all the projects to be supported by the EFSI have to be economically sustainable, have European added value and be in line with the European Union's strategic priorities. He underscored that Croatia's opportunities lay in tourism, infrastructure, small and medium enterprises. If you want long-term success, there is no alternative to investments and without investments you cannot be successful in the long run, said Molterer.

Deputy Regional Development and European Union Funds Minister Jaksa Puljiz said that Croatia's needs for investments are greater than the capacity of the structural investments funds and that is why the EFSI is a good opportunity for Croatia. He invited interested enterprises to approach the Croatian Bank of Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) as the central institution to implement EFSI funding.

Most Croatian entrepreneurs - 66% - consider European funds to be positive, a survey conducted by the Croatian Employers' Association (HUP), presented on Wednesday, indicates. The survey was conducted amongst 382 businesses, 96% of which were small and 4% medium sized enterprises. The majority - 82% - see EU funds as an opportunity to improve competitiveness, and 60% consider that these funds are not intended just for large enterprises, HUP's survey shows.

However, 65% consider that the application process for funding is not simple, while 58% consider their main problem is obtaining guarantees.

The head of HBOR's EU Funds department, Marina Marasovic, said that the bank offered entrepreneurs financing for projects and that it recently introduced a new product to assist them with preparing the necessary documentation. HBOR offers fixed interest rates of 2.4% and 2.6% and recently a decision was adopted on temporarily lower interest rates of 1.3% and 1.5% for loans up to 17 years and a grace period of 3 or 4 years.

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