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EU draws up $1.6 trillion wish list to revive economy

The European Union has drawn up a wish list of almost 2,000 projects worth 1.3 trillion euros ($1.59 trillion) for possible inclusion in an investment plan to revive growth and jobs without adding to countries' debts.

Investment has been a casualty of the financial crisis in Europe, tumbling around 20 percent in the euro zone since 2008, according to the European Central Bank.

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Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Following a call by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU governments have submitted projects ranging from a new airport terminal in Helsinki to flood defenses in Britain, according to a document seen by Reuters.

"Almost 2,000 projects were identified with a total investment cost of 1,300 billion euros of which 500 billion are to be realized within the next three years,'' said the document, to be discussed by EU finance ministers on Tuesday.

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Projects on the list, which officials stress is not definitive, also include housing regeneration in the Netherlands, a new port in Ireland and a 4.5 billion euro fast rail connection between Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Other job-creating schemes involve refueling stations for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Germany, expanding high-speed broadband networks in Spain and making France public buildings use less energy.

Almost a third of the projects are energy related, another third are focused on transport and the remainder on innovation, the environment and housing.

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Grand bargain

The EU's executive Commission aims to have the first projects chosen and ready to attract private money in June. Many on the list have been frustrated by lack of financing or political problems affecting cross-broader projects.

Juncker presented a plan last month to leverage some 315 billion euros of largely private new investment in the EU, part of a wider plan to avoid years of low growth after a debt and banking crisis that nearly broke up the euro zone.

The bloc is setting aside 8 billion euros to help provide 21 billion euros of capital for a special fund managed with the European Investment Bank.

As Europe struggles with near-record unemployment, the investment plan forms what some see as a grand bargain with the European Central Bank.

In that plan, governments will commit to structural reforms and investments, giving the ECB cover to launch U.S.-style quantitative easing -- buying sovereign bonds to inject money into the economy.

ECB President Mario Draghi will address euro zone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday and will return next week for a summit of EU leaders, where the recovery strategy is likely to be fleshed out.

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