Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for Regional Policy, starts a two-day visit to the Czech Republic Sunday, combining regional visits and addressing the annual European Banking Forum in Prague. The Commissioner will visit Moravia-Silesia and the South-East to meet regional and local stakeholders in charge of implementing EU co-financed regional programmes. In Prague, she will discuss the future prospects of global and local players in international business and finance with Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and leading participants at the European Banking Forum, where she is a keynote speaker.

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Ahead of her visit, she said: 'The Czech Republic is taking very seriously the need to shift towards a knowledge economy and is aware that it needs to accelerate its respective efforts. Investment in Research and Development for innovation has a crucial role to play in this, and I look forward to seeing evidence of ways in which this is being applied during my visit. European banks, with their expertise and extensive regional networks throughout the EU, can be a significant force in promoting more investment and greater efficiency in Cohesion Policy.'

Sunday 30 March (Prague), the Commissioner will meet Mr Jiøí Vaèkáø, First Deputy Minister for Regional Development. She will have dinner with President Václav Klaus and leading participants at the European Banking Forum.

Monday 31 March in Brno, she will meet Mr Vlastimil Rùžièka Deputy Minister for Education, Youth and Sports. At the Brno Business and Information Centre, the Commissioner will meet the Present of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Professor Václav Paèes and regional stakeholders. In Ostrava, she will meet Mr Evžen Tošenovský, Governor (hejtman) of Moravia Silesia and President of the Association of Regions.

Tuesday 1 April in Prague, the Commissioner will meet Mr Aleksandr Vondra, Vice Prime Minister for European Affairs, and Mr Ondøej Liška, Minister for Education, Youth and Sport. At the European Banking Forum, she will address a panel on 'International Business and Finances – Global and local players, and their future prospects'.

Regional visits

The Commissioner will stress the importance of focussing on research, innovation and technology transfer, as well as the need to ensure good administrative capacity to ensure efficient implementation.

In Brno, she will visit the South Moravian Business Centre, which offers premises and services for innovative enterprises, and supports students with original ideas.

In Ostrava, in Moravia-Silesia, Ms Hübner will visit the Business Incubator of the VŠB-Technical University of Ostrava and the Regional Technology Transfer Centre. The Incubator provides advisory, consultancy and technical services to young companies. The University of Ostrava is involved in research and development projects carried out in cooperation with partners from private sector and research institutes.

European Banking and Financial Forum

At the European Banking and Financial Forum, a high-level annual conference on economic, financial and banking issues, the Commissioner will discuss the future prospects of global and local players, present the new financial engineering instruments of Cohesion Policy and invite conference participants to also modernize their financing instruments, not least with a view to playing a bigger role in policy implementation.

Three initiatives, JEREMIE, JASPERS and JESSICA (see notes below), have been launched in partnership with the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Council of Europe Development Bank. Non-EU banks can also take part in public-private partnership schemes. Through open calls for proposals, banks are invited to provide loans and loan guarantees. The Commission and European Investment Fund are also working on a new microfinance facility.

Cohesion policy in the Czech Republic 2007-2013: facts and figures

The Czech Republic will benefit from EU investment worth €29.6 billion (€26.7 billion from Cohesion Policy and €2.9 billion from the EAGGF/rural development). Implementation will be through 14 programmes funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and three under the European Social Fund (ESF). All were adopted at the end of last year, with the exception of a programme entitled 'Research and Development for innovation', which will be presented to the Commission shortly.

Notes for editors: financial engineering

JEREMIE seeks to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises.

JESSICA is an initiative to finance urban renewal investments.

JASPERS helps new Member States prepare large Structural Fund or Cohesion Fund projects.

Microcredit: The European Commission and the European Investment Fund are preparing to set up a new micro-finance facility to provide expertise and support for the development of non-bank micro-finance institutions.

See Memo/06/219 and IP/07/1713.

More on European regional policy in the Czech Republic: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/atlas2007/czech/index_en.htm

Further information on Cohesion Policy and Financial Engineering:

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