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Nadia Calviño: “We must strengthen the European defense industry and our deterrent capacity”

2024-02-26T05:12:36.827Z

Highlights: Nadia Calviño is the new president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) She wants the institution to reinforce the political objectives of the EU without putting the bank's exceptional strategic rating at risk. “It is clear that we must strengthen the European security and defense industry; our defensive and also deterrent capacity,” she says. The EIB has a financing program of 8,000 million until 2027 and only 2,000 have been invested so far. The bank has taken much more risk both inside and outside Europe, for example in Ukraine.


The new president of the EIB wants the institution she heads to reinforce the political objectives of the EU without putting the bank's exceptional strategic rating at risk


Nadia Calviño (A Coruña, 55 years old) has not yet completed her second month as president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), but she already shows that she has studied and knows the priorities of the institution she now directs, the largest multilateral bank in the world by volume of assets, with more than 500,000 million.

The former vice president of the Government arrives at the financial arm of the EU, a lender highly specialized in financing infrastructure to which the ministers of the Member States and the leaders of the Union now make it their duty, forced by the dangerous geostrategic situation, to play a key role in promoting the European Defense industry.

She joins the role that is demanded of her in the ecological and digital transition, which leads the Commission to ask her to take more risks.

In her first interview with a Spanish media after taking up the new position, Calviño defends that the EIB has a "very consolidated position", although she admits that one of her missions will be to "strengthen activity in other areas."

Ask.

What is your model going to be for the bank?

Answer.

The group is the financial arm of the Union, with a very solid financial position thanks to a high capital ratio, a very solid triple A [the highest credit rating].

And this gives us a very good basis to play an important role in the coming years.

We have to build on these strengths, concentrate activity on the political priorities of the Union, and also try to modernize the bank, because it has grown very quickly in recent years.

Q.

Are you going to give as much importance to that good credit rating as your predecessor?

A.

It is essential that the EIB has a triple A, I would say even a triple A Plus.

This allows us to have favorable financial conditions, support investments in Europe and give, for example, very good conditions to SMEs.

Nadia Calviño, during the interview.Delmi Álvarez

Q.

You know that the European institutions think that the EIB takes few risks.

Will you continue to be so cautious?

Q.

It is essential that we combine lower-risk but high-scale activities, such as the financing of SMEs or more classic activities such as infrastructure, with higher-risk activities.

We must have a balanced balance.

Furthermore, since the pandemic, the bank has taken much more risk both inside and outside Europe, for example in Ukraine.

Thanks to the EIB, high-risk projects become a reality, which would be unthinkable without the coverage of a public bank, mobilizing public and private investment.

We are often not aware of the extent to which all the large investments taking place in Europe, in one way or another, are financed by the EIB.

Q.

And isn't it time for it to be a more industrial bank?

A.

We have a very consolidated position in large infrastructures and green financing, but we have to reinforce our activity in other areas.

That is exactly what I have addressed today [this Friday] with the Ministers of Finance, who have supported our approach to strengthen our activity in areas such as digitalization, technology for decarbonization, agriculture, biotechnology, social infrastructures, education, health, housing, security and defense...

Q.

How far are you willing to go in security and defense?

A.

It is clear that we must strengthen the European security and defense industry;

our defensive and also deterrent capacity.

That's clear.

The EIB has been financing investments in security and defense for eight years, especially in R&D, new technologies or protection of critical infrastructures.

This includes border control and dual-use technologies: drones, cybersecurity, space industry... We have a financing program of 8,000 million until 2027 and only 2,000 have been consumed.

In the meeting with the ministers [last Friday] we agreed to speed up investments in security and defense and work on the definition, concept and scope of dual-use technologies.

We are going to try to accelerate investments as much as possible with those 6,000 million that are in the financing program.

And in January we launched a capital instrument with 175 million euros to support SMEs and

start-ups

[emerging companies] in this sector.

“I have agreed with the European ministers to expedite investments in security”

Nadia Calvino

Q.

And can the EIB finance the manufacture of weapons or ammunition?

Now that Brussels is precisely trying to promote a European defense Union, not only for the needs of Ukraine but also because the arsenals of the member states themselves are emptying and because they must be modernized.

A.

The activities in which we operate cover a very important part of the investments to be developed and, therefore, complement very well the action that Governments can develop with national budgets or the community budget.

It is important that each player in this market focuses on the areas in which it has the greatest added value.

And it is also crucial to know well whether in each of the markets, and in each activity, more financing is needed or other levers are what can strengthen the European defense industry.

Q.

Are you referring to governments signing purchase contracts directly?

A.

For example.

Q.

Are there no loopholes for the EIB to participate more directly not only in dual-use material, military and civil, but also in lethal defense material?

A. I

insist.

It is about identifying which are the most appropriate instruments to respond to each of the needs, knowing that we all agree that it is necessary to strengthen the European security and defense industry and that the EIB is already acting in this field.

We will all try to do more and better.

Q.

Can financing nuclear energy create division between member states?

A.

The EIB is present and finances investments in all key technologies for the green transition.

A few weeks ago we approved an important project in Romania for the treatment of tritium, a nuclear fuel.

Here we always act hand in hand with Euratom, and with it the European Commission.

Nadia Calviño answers a question during the interview. Delmi Álvarez

Q.

Will we see the EIB finance any newly built nuclear plants?

A.

At the moment, what is being talked about, above all, is research in the field of small modular reactors.

That is R&D and, therefore, research in which we have to strengthen European capacity.

Q.

Do you agree with the phrase of Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who said in reference to the EIB that “political considerations must prevail over benefits”?

A.

We have to continue being a profitable bank with good risk management and make it compatible with being more aligned, if possible, with European political priorities.

One of my contributions is to bring closer and strengthen alliances with other institutions.

This is one of the things I bring to the EIB: the close relationship with the Commission, with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, with the States and with the national development banks.

This strategic alliance and this much closer union of all institutions is absolutely key for us to achieve maximum impact with every euro of public money.

We have to continue being a profitable bank with good risk management”

Nadia Calvino

Q.

The EIB has an important role to play in the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Do they take a lot of risk with it?

A.

Given the investment needs, public institutions will have to reduce risk to mobilize private investment.

That is precisely the added value of the EIB.

For our operations outside the EU, it is essential to have the guarantee of the community or national budget.

Q.

What geopolitical role do you see for the EIB outside the EU and outside Ukraine?

A.

Of the 88,000 million euros in operations that we signed last year, more than 90% are within the European Union.

Although the EIB has the largest balance sheet, its activities are highly concentrated in the EU.

Therefore, outside the EU we have to exploit synergies with other institutions, with local financial institutions and concentrate our activity where there are European political priorities;

and that is where we can have greater added value.

At this moment it is Ukraine, the expansion, also the southern neighborhood, very important for Spain.

We are talking about the Mediterranean and the European strategic agenda for sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Q.

Is this how the EIB can play a role, through investment financing, in Europe's access to critical raw materials?

A.

We have to support the strategies designed by the EU in this area which, in addition to the emphasis on development, ecological transition or gender policy, increasingly places emphasis on guaranteeing industrial value chains and access to critical raw materials. , essential for strategic autonomy in the green and digital spheres.

Portrait of Nadia Calviño, on February 23 in Ghent.Delmi Álvarez

Q.

In line with this and the reindustrialization that has been talked about lately, can the EIB be a good pillar to support this new economic security strategy?

A.

Without any doubt.

In my contacts with the ministers, with the European institutions and with the commissioners, they have all told me that the EIB is fundamental in the field of strategic autonomy, economic security and the reindustrialization of Europe in a green and digital key.

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Source: elparis

All business articles on 2024-02-26

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