ATHENS (Reuters) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) launched a one billion euro credit line to Greek banks on Thursday to be channeled to small and medium sized companies and firms promoting youth employment.
The first agreements with commercial lenders Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT), Eurobank (EURBr.AT) , National Bank of Greece (NBGr.AT) and Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT) were signed in Athens on Thursday for 400 million euros, equally split between the four.
The remaining 600 million in the program will be allocated over the next two years, provided the banks absorb and channel the first tranche to businesses.
The loans will be used by Greek banks for on-lending to SMEs and MidCaps active in the agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, services and other sectors, the EIB said.
"The four loan agreements signed today with the four systemic banks in Greece bear particular significance as they contribute, and with a sizable amount, towards one of EIB's top priorities, namely the improvement of access to finance for SMEs, which are the backbone of the country’s economy," EIB President Werner Hoyer said.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the program provided vital financial aid to innovation and business, and could stem a 'brain drain' which has seen thousands of highly-qualified Greeks flee the country since it plunged into financial crisis in 2010.
Reporting By Lefteris Papadimas