When European leaders agreed last summer on a "growth compact" designed to pump more than two hundred billion dollars into the euro zone economy, it was hailed as modern-day Marshall Plan.
Seven months on, however, the money's still not moving and neither is the economy.
With a record 18.8 people billion out of work, the euro zone continues hemorrhaging over 100,000 jobs a month. The bloc's economy contracted by 0.4 percent last year and the growth forecast for 2013 barely edges above zero.
Matters are much worse in the south. Greece is mired in a sixth year of deep recession and more than a quarter of Spaniards are out of work.
However, all those billions for investment — which have been held up in the European Union's tortuous decision-making process since summer — could soon start to flow.
Formal approval from governments and parliaments across the 27-member EU to increase the capital of the European Investment Bank by $13.5 billion finally came through earlier this month.
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Its base strengthened, the EIB aims to raise $80 billion more on the markets. That could enable it to leverage more private and public financing to a total of $244 billion over the next three years that would be invested in small businesses, research and innovation, and public works projects.
"In the longer term, it is incredibly important for the European economy," says Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist at the European Policy Center, a Brussels think tank. "This is one of the very few tools we have available to address some of the very specific negative impacts of the crisis."
Rarely in the headlines, the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank enjoys a triple-A credit rating and widespread market confidence, which enable it to raise money on the capital markets. It then offers long-term, low-interest loans for various projects, using its solid reputation to attract more funding from private or public investors.
Typically, every euro the EIB invests is matched by two euros from other investors.
"These forms of funding do offer a very substantive possibility to leverage private financing, so the impact of every euro that goes into the EIB capital is vastly greater than that euro," Zuleeg explains. "It certainly is a very cost effective way of spending the money."
Financing brought in by the increase in the bank's capital could boost growth in the European Union by an additional 0.6 percent over the next two years, which would create at least 1.2 million new jobs, according to a report by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.
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"That's a very conservative estimate," said Stephany Griffith-Jones of Columbia University, one of the report's authors. "We just looked that impact of investment in infrastructure. Lending to small and medium-sized companies would have an additional impact."
Although about 10 percent of the EIB's funding usually goes to projects outside the EU, the capital increase will be exclusively for European investments.