At the beginning of July, the European Commission unveiled a new micro-finance instrument. Micro credits will be granted to help job seekers and small entrepreneurs who want to set up their own business. Initial reactions to the proposal of the Commission were rather mixed. In particular the objective - does the instrument predominantly serve to help the banks or the people? - has been put into question. Now it is the turn of the European Parliament and the Council to find common ground.
In accordance with the Commission, the new micro-finance instrument is aimed at making access to loans easier for those people, who in view of the restricted loan facilities available for start-up business will probably encounter problems. This is actually easily comprehensible as the 100 million Euros are more than welcome in times of a financial and economic crisis. The Swedish Presidency is eager to come to a speedy agreement with the European Parliament. So far, however, the European Parliament has not yet appointed a Parliamentary rapporteur for the dossier. The only known fact is that the Employment Committee will be in charge. The Council has already started negotiations.

The instrument has drawn criticism from many sides. An added value is not immediately obvious, as similar instruments already exist in many Member States. It is also not quite clear who is supposed to grant these loans - banks, may be the Public Employment Service or NGOs? According to the proposal, the instruments are available both to private as well as public facilities in the Member States. It has emerged from informed circles that in particular the Public Employment Service will be given a significant role with regard to the new micro-finance instrument. The question as to how the 100 million will be allocated to the Member States remains completely unanswered. The proposal does not provide any clues. Another possibility would be that some Member States come away empty-handed.

It is the intention that the 100 million Euros will be available to the Member States from 1st January 2010. Only the coming months will show whether the proposal is a good thing for job seekers and small business or whether the critics will be proven right and the banks will be the true profiteers of the new micro-finance instrument.

Further information:

European micro-finance instrument: Proposal for a resolution