The European Investment Bank (EIB) launched on Wednesday in Greece a new trade finance facility designed to support export-oriented small and medium sized companies (SMEs) to overcome their liquidity problems amidst the debt crisis. Under the deal signed on Wednesday in Athens in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and EIB head Werner Hoyer, the EIB will provide guarantees worth up to 1.5 billion euros (1.99 billion U.S. dollars) per year to six commercial banks to finance Greek SMEs. Addressing the event, Samaras stressed that the new finance facility is a very useful tool which will give breath to exports. Greece relies on the strengthening of exports, among other keystones, to restore growth in order to overcome the crisis, the threat of a default and a potential exit from the euro zone and achieve economic recovery. However, Greek companies do not have easy access to international trade financing and several thousands SMEs, which are considered as a pillar of Greek economy, have been struggling to survive over the past three years. \"As the EU bank, we felt that we should provide Greece with the tools it most needs under the circumstances, so we developed this facility, which we inaugurated here today. The EIB will act as a secure bridge between leading Greek and foreign banks to the benefit of Greek SMEs in the import-export sector,\" Hoyer said. \"Our presence here today underlines our commitment to and trust in Greece,\" he added. Welcoming the new program, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras requested that the funds provided be doubled in the near future. Yorgos Zannias, President of the Hellenic Banks Association, also called for interventions to help lower the interest rates of more than 8 percent currently paid by Greek entrepreneurs compared to the 2.4 percent offered in Germany.