Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Román Escolano : "The EIB is convinced of the Maghreb's growth potential and wants to contribute to it."

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Monday, November 30th 2015 à 16:12 | Read 780 times

Vice-President of the European Investment Bank and in charge since September 2015 of EIB activities in the Maghreb, Román Escolano speaks about his ambitions for this region.

Román Escolano drawing up a Dirham loan agreement (photo BEI)
Román Escolano drawing up a Dirham loan agreement (photo BEI) You took over responsibility for the Maghreb at the European Investment Bank two months ago. What have your priorities been?

Román Escolano: The first thing I wanted to do was go and talk to the authorities in those countries, introduce myself, assure them of our cooperation and express our trust in them.
After the Tunisian Revolution, the EIB engaged in a fruitful cooperation with the authorities and that cooperation continues today, in difficult times for a country facing the threat of terrorism. The EIB continues to finance major projects in Tunisia. Last September for example, I signed a credit facility of €50M with Amen Bank to support Tunisian MMCs and VSEs in the industrial and commercial sectors. The agreement relies heavily on close collaboration between civil society and Réseau Entreprendre, which provides the businesses with coaching and support to expedite their financing.
In Morocco, our work is also advancing rapidly. During my official visit at the end of September, 2015, I signed a €75M contract with our long-standing partner the ONEE (state water and electricity department) aimed at boosting water production, distribution and treatment capacity in the country.

Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco remain the EIB's three main partners in the Mediterranean region.

A Dirham loan

What projects do you have in the Maghreb region?

R.E.: Our coverage is very wide: typical infrastructure, social infrastructure (education, health…) and new funding for the private sector. We are currently working on several interesting projects in the Maghreb in these three domains. They are due to be completed within the next few months. They include financing for Tunisian roads, in particular improving access to the interior of the country, and loans to promote the growth of renewable energies in Morocco. In these two countries, we are also providing support for the auto industry and for rail infrastructure. Working with our institutional and financial partners, we intend increasing the number of loans to SMEs both in Morocco and Tunisia.

In 2016, we will be announcing a key project in Morocco involving -for the first time ever- a Dirham loan.

How do you see the Maghreb?

R.E.: We are aware of the political and security challenges in the region. Nevertheless, we believe that there is room to increase cooperation with the European Union through a far-reaching free trade agreement currently being prepared.
The EIB is convinced of the region's growth potential and wants to contribute to it, through funding key projects in particular. 

In the EIB's announcements regarding the Maghreb, there is one country notable by its absence: Algeria. What is the latest position regarding the country?

R.E.: Algeria has adopted a restrictive policy regarding its foreign debt. The EIB maintains good relations with the Algerian authorities and we are continuing discussions with them. We are closely following the ongoing dialogue between Algeria and the EU aimed at increasing cooperation in several sectors, including energy.

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