Microfinance and the social economy were discussed at a workshop on 2 March, 2016 in Athens, Greece. The workshop was jointly organised by the EIB Group and the Bodossaki Foundation, with the support of fi-compass/EaSI TA. The workshop built on the discussions and workshops already undertaken in the country over the previous years and aimed at presenting the latest work in the field applied to Greece, including the regulatory framework.

More than 60 delegates attended the workshop in Athens, including representatives from the Government (Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Labour), regional agencies, banks (both systemic and cooperative), Business Development Services (BDS) suppliers, microfinance entities, academicians, the banking regulator, development finance institutions, non-for profit organizations and key experts from Greece and other European countries.


 

Financial inclusion is high on the agenda of the governments where the microfinance schemes are working - Silke Mueffelmann, EASI TA team leader


The opening speech of the seminar was delivered by Sotiris Laganopoulos, Programme Director of EEA Grants NGO Programme for Greece at the Bodossaki Foundation. Facilitated by the European Investment Fund, the workshop was structured in two parts – first the latest developments in the Greek microfinance field were presented, together with the existing regulatory environment. After a break, the second part focussed on the importance of businesses development services (BDS) and opened the discussion to the way forward in Greece. After lunch there was a separate roundtable on access to finance through microfinance, specifically targeting refugees for a smaller group of participants interested in this subject.

Dr. Yiorgos Alexopoulos, Senior Researcher at the European Research Institute on Coop and Social Enterprises – EURICSE – delivered the first presentation by setting the scene in terms of microfinance and social enterprises. Panagiotis Tournavitis, Managing Director of the Cooperative Bank of Karditsa went on to explain how EaSI TA contributes to application to the EaSI programme and how they were spearheading the creation of a network of interested institutions in the Social Economy. Following these two presentations, Joerg Schoolmann, Country Lead for the German Microfinance Institute presented their latest study on microfinance in Greece. His presentation was followed by a discussion on the various models for microfinance that can be implemented in Greece and their comparative advantages and disadvantages.

Silke Mueffelmann, EaSI TA Team Leader set the scene for the session on regulatory approaches, by providing some international best practices on the issue. Whilst in Europe there is a variety of approaches with different results, outside Europe and in emerging markets where microfinance is well developed, there is a link between having appropriate regulation that includes non-banking financial institutions, and the successful delivery of microfinance. Corrado Ferretti, President of PerMIcro in Italy, confirmed such hypothesis by providing evidence of the repeat recommendations by the EC to this effect. Ageliki Zerva, Deputy Director of the Banking Supervision Division at the Bank of Greece, provided a detailed presentation on how the Bank of Greece could become part of the equation and why a specific mandate by the Government would be needed in order to create a new law for MFIs that would avoid unnecessary regulatory overburden, given their size and objectives.

Following the break, the importance of BDS was presented. First, Christos Pouris Financial Instruments Advisor, fi-compass at the European Investment Bank made a call to act on microfinance given the needs in Greece. Jennifer Clarke, Capacity Building Coordinator at the Bodossaki Foundation provided an excellent summary of the work they are undertaking in giving support to NGOs and social enterprises and put emphasis on the importance of BDS. The latter was further emphasised in Anastasia Tsiloglou’s, General Manager of Action Finance Initiative, passionate intervention. By providing concrete examples of AFI’s work in microfinance in Greece in partnership with Pancretan Cooperative Bank, Anastasia was able to convey the challenges they face on a daily basis and the need to rethink the way to scale their model. She emphasized the need for people to be self-sustainable, not state dependent – this could be achieved through microfinance.
 
This led to the discussion on the way forward in Greece, whereby Riccardo Aguglia, Senior Investment Manager Guarantees, Securitisation & Microfinance at the European Investment Fund presented the work done to date in Greece, specifically under Progress with a transaction together with Pancretan and AFI. Riccardo also shared the EIB Group’s work in progress in respect of a dedicated facility that would aim at accelerating the deployment of EaSI in combination with the European Fund for Strategic Investments and Greek national Structural Funds.

Finally, after lunch, a group of 20 participants – amongst them four Greek NGOs that are working with refugees, got together in roundtable discussion moderated by the EaSI TA Team Leader Silke Mueffelmann to share experiences on microfinance that includes refugees. Following a video by Bodossaki Foundation on their effort through the EEA Grants We are all Citizens Programme to support unaccompanied children arriving in the EU, Milena Gojkovic, CEO at Micro Development in Serbia shared her experience on building a sustainable MFI for socially vulnerable groups, including refugees, dating back from the previous Balkan war. 

The agenda, speakers' profiles, the presentations and materials of the workshop can be found under the following link: http://www.weareallcitizens.gr/gallery.html


 
 

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