Vienna , 24 May 2012 Fekter: "We must further strengthen partnership with our eastern neighbours" Closer political and economic integration needed with partners in the East.

"We must and indeed shall support our partners east of the EU," stressed Finance Minister Dr Maria Fekter in an opening speech at the conference "Eastern Partnership for Growth", held by the European Investment Bank on 24 May 2012 in Vienna. Due to the immense growth potential and the wealth of the countries east of the EU, Fekter believes them to present great development opportunities.

In this context, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is also highly significant. "The EIB plays an important role in project financing, and is currently in the process of developing further innovative financial instruments," declared Fekter. According to the Finance Minister, the crisis - during which the EIB has nonetheless continued to expand its projects - is not yet over, and challenges remain. "For this reason, close collaboration is indeed really necessary," she continued. As a result, at the conference the primary concern was to identify new and attractive projects in the local and private sectors, as well as infrastructure projects.

"Austria has hugely expanded its economic relations with the countries of the East over the past few years. Yet there remains immense potential for further consolidation of such relations – above all with Moldova and Georgia. The aim is to enhance economic prosperity and democracy," stressed Fekter.

In this context, the EIB could be described as the "financial arm of the EU". In future, the EIB would subsidize the private sector and, through this, medium-sized business above all. "In this way, we can fully exploit the long-term growth potential," concluded the Minister.