BRUSSELS, Belgium—European Union leaders met December 18 to seek solutions on how to jump start sluggish economic growth.
European Council President Donald Tusk, the official host of the 28-nation summit, said he expected attendees to call for the urgent establishment of a strategic investment fund.
The fund would leverage EU seed money and loan guarantees up to 315 billion euros (US$386 billion) of private-sector investment to upgrade infrastructure, create jobs and stimulate growth.
The plan is the brainchild of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Critics have already warned that it may not be big enough to encourage wary investors, whose confidence is crucial for success.
“This package looks like creative accounting for the moment,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters.
“This is not an issue of putting public money into something. It is an issue of attracting private investment,” Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said. For each euro of EU funds allocated, Stubb noted, the plan’s authors “hope to get a leverage which is 15 times” greater.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said any investments fostered by the plan “must go into projects for the future—particularly, for example, in the digital economy or where we aren’t so good on the world market as we should be: electromobility (electric cars) and the like.”
European Parliament President Martin Schulz, in a speech prepared for delivery at the summit, said the EU must stimulate and modernize its economy, or risk falling farther behind global competitors like the U.S. and China.
Schulz said investment in areas like schools, universities, green energy and infrastructure was key “if we want Europe to be an economic champion in the future.”