German Seeks a Bigger Role for EU Countries in EBRD

FRANKFURT -- Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen, a vice president of the European Investment Bank, said the bank aimed to take a majority stake in development lender EBRD through gradually buying out non-European Union shareholders.

The EIB said Kollatz-Ahnen was expressing a personal view.

Kollatz-Ahnen, Germany's representative on the management board of the European Union's long-term lending arm and one of its eight vice presidents, said the EIB was eyeing stakes held by countries including the United States, Australia and Japan in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

"The aim of the EIB is to build a majority, step by step," he told the Frankfurt Club for International Business Journalists late Tuesday in comments approved for release Wednesday.

"We don't want more institutions, we want to slim it down."

Such a move would allow the EIB, owned by EU member states, to focus its activities on the EU while the EBRD concentrates on former Soviet Union states outside the EU.

Through the end of last year, the EBRD had signed more than 600 projects in Russia worth almost 9.7 billion euros ($14.7 billion), including 2.3 billion euros in 2007 alone, according to the bank's web site. Russia accounted for 41 percent of the EBRD's lending last year.

The EIB already has a 3 percent share in the EBRD, and non-EU stakeholders hold roughly 40 percent. Kollatz-Ahnen said buying up other stakes could take about eight years.

The EBRD, established in 1991 to help develop market economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, has already announced that it will stop investing by 2010 in the eight former communist countries that joined the EU in 2004. The United States is the EBRD's biggest shareholder, with 10 percent, while Japan owns 8.5 percent and Russia holds 4 percent.

Reuters, MT