The European Investment Fund (EIF) and the National Bank of Greece (NBG) on April 16 signed three guarantee agreements worth €640 million to improve access to financial assistance for small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greece, according to the European Commission that facilitated the agreements under theJuncker Loan Plan.

More than 5,000  small Greek businesses, start-ups, and mid-sized enterprises will benefit from the initiative, which takes its name from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

With the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments and under the new InnovFin agreement, the NBG will provide two-year loans, at favourable terms, with the financial backing from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. According to the Commission, this support is expected to generate a portfolio of €100 million worth of loans.

A second extension agreement known as the COSME transaction will allow the NBG to provide €500 million in loans to around 1,900 small businesses over a three-year period. Greece has a remarkable percentage of 99.8-99.9 small SMEs that employ 87% of the country’s working force. 68% of the Greek workforce is employed in SMEs with fewer than 9 workers, 19% of the country’s workers are employed by SMEs with 10-49 employees, and just 13% with medium-sized SMEs that have 50-249 employees.

The EIF has also signed an EaSI microfinance guarantee transaction with the NBG to provide €40 million in loans to 3,400 micro-borrowers – very small companies – who have difficulties in accessing credit across the country. Launched in June 2015, the EaSI Guarantee scheme is funded by the European Commission and managed by the European Investment Fund.

Present at the signatory ceremony was the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. The Greek Commissioner reiterated that these three financing projects prove that the European Commission keeps supporting the Greek economy and the country’s SMEs. According to Avramopoulos, “the program is a productivity pillar for Greece” and “a political message of solidarity and support, in real economic terms”.

EIF Chief Executive, Pier Luigi Gilibert suggested that working with partners like the National Bank of Greece allows for a roll-out a broad range of financing solutions in support of this country’s aspiring entrepreneurs.

 NBG Chief Executive Officer, Leonidas Fragkiadakis, said that the bank’s partnership with the EIF under the three programs is “an exemplary initiative which leverages European and local know-how to significantly expand the reach and accessibility of financing to SMEs”.