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EU: Access to capital key to foster growth, jobs

DUBLIN -- With many of the European Union's economies mired in stagnation, EU officials are seeking to emulate part of the U.S. model for creating growth and jobs by fostering more private investment in businesses.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said this weekend that in the United States banks account for only 25 percent of external financing for businesses. In Europe, he said, the proportion is the opposite -- 70 to 75 percent of business financing comes from banks. He spoke at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of EU finance ministers in Dublin.

"There was a shared view that we must begin to take tangible action to assist in developing a more balanced financial system in which banks, institutional investors and public authorities all play a role in supporting long-term investment in growth and jobs," Noonan said.

This is important, he said, as many small and medium-sized businesses in the EU lack access to capital. Because Ireland currently holds the EU's rotating six-month presidency, Noonan chaired the meeting.

In January, unemployment across the 17 EU countries that use the euro hit a record 11.9 percent, with nearly 19 million people out of work. The unemployment rate for young people was 24.2 percent. And the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, predicts the unemployment rate will rise further this year. -- AP

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