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A conversation with Pierre Heilbronn on European development finance architecture

07-06-2021
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Pierre Heilbronn, Vice-President Policy and Partnership of the EBRD

Mikaela Gavas (CGD) and San Bilal (ECDPM) host Pierre Heilbronn, Vice President, Policy and Partnerships of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to discuss the role of the bank in the debate on the European Financial Architecture for Development. Pierre explains how he sees the EBRD as a crucial part of the European system of development actors and the only multilateral institution in which the European Commission has a share of the capital. He claims that with a strong European controlling majority, but bringing along other partners, the EBRD is a real asset for the EU to exert influence in the world. He shares his views on the possible expansion of the EBRD in Sub-Saharan Africa, the necessity of a much more coherent approach among shareholders and how European financial institutions can improve their cooperation to deliver development impact.

In 30-minute interviews with key stakeholders from the European bilateral and multilateral development banks, the European Commission and development finance experts, co-hosts Mikaela Gavas (CGD) and San Bilal (ECDPM) take you on a thought-provoking journey as they explore efforts to maximise the potential of European development finance and get to grips with how to devise a more collaborative system.

In late 2019, a ‘High-Level Group of Wise Persons’, set out to propose approaches for streamlining the complex web of European financial institutions for development to pave the way towards a more effective and rational system focused on sustainable development impact. The Group called for stronger EU policy guidance, greater emphasis on climate, biodiversity and development impact (notably in Africa), stronger visibility of European development finance, and better coordination and cooperation among finance and development partners. The Group also recommended the establishment of a European Climate and Sustainable Development Bank (ECSDB), thereby setting in motion a contest between Europe’s two multilateral banks, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as to which would be most capable of fulfilling this role.

In 2020, a feasibility study was commissioned by the European Council to assess the viability of the two banks taking on this role, and to consider a third option – ‘Status Quo Plus’ – more cooperation short of a new bank. This third option has been put forward as the most attractive and feasible, albeit with the risk that it would be seen as an endorsement of the status quo and that the EU and the banks would not fundamentally change their actions. There is, however, still a long way to go to decipher what exactly the ‘plus’ means in practice. Decrypting this is fundamental in determining the ability of the EU to effectively contribute to a post-COVID-19 reconstruction that is greener, more inclusive and gender sensitive.

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