EPEC: The best example so far of the regional PPP knowledge centre

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Not only is regional cooperation around public private partnerships (PPPs) possible, but I would say that it is certainly more than desirable. The EU seems to agree - it made the big jump into this field last September and established EPEC at a meeting in Paris convened for this purpose.

What does EPEC stand for? It is the European PPP Expertise Centre, hosted by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and therefore located in Luxembourg. According to the EU Structural Funds Directorate:

The general aims of EPEC are providing support to, and assisting its Members in the development of the skills and capacity required within the Public Sector to define, manage and/or implement their PPP policies and programs in accordance with market best practice. Moreover, based on the Members’ experience, the expertise center will provide its Members with guidelines, papers and comments on relevant issues concerning the structuring of effective and efficient PPP projects.

What does EPEC do?

•  Policy and program support
•  Helpdesk to EPEC members
•  Collaborative network activities, which include:

(a) Value for Money- assessing the wider benefits of PPPs;(b) Value for Money- reviews of independent reports; (c) Applying Eurostat guidance to PPPs; (d) Operating Competitive Dialogue procedures; (e) Credit Crisis

EPEC’s main task is to help the public sector overcome shortfalls in PPP expertise across the EU and especially in new EU members. The centre has been in operation for more than 9 months, and during this entire time we have been hearing very unfavorable news from the world of PPP. The conditions for financing PPPs have changed drastically. The EIB is now playing an even more prominent role in financing PPPs, as bank clubs have not been able to raise enough money with reasonable long term conditions.

Nicolas Jennet of EPEC suggested some possible solutions to the current market situation in his presentation in Warsaw (May 2009); however, the EU has still not been able to figure out how to replace wrapped bonds, which are no longer an option in Europe. Wrapped bonds "are debt obligations insured by a third party agreeing to provide a guaranty on the timely, full and complete payment of principal and interest on those obligations. These guaranties can be in the form of a financial guaranty or a surety bond." Wrapped bonds have been one of most important financial products securing financing for PPPs in Europe and are issued by monoline insurers.

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