► What are government guaranteed loans?

The amending finance law of March 23 grants a state guarantee to loans granted by banks to companies and associations. The public investment bank Bpifrance, a subsidiary of the Caisse des Dépôts, is responsible by the State for monitoring their outstandings and verifying, in the event of a call for the guarantee, that the conditions defined in the specifications charges are met.

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“It is not Bpifrance that guarantees the loans, it is the State, specifies Nathalie Police, media relations manager of the bank. Bpifrance is just the transmission belt. A certificate must be entered on the Bpifrance website. It is with this certificate that the applicant can go to his bank to prove his compliance with eligibility for the EMP. “

► Are diocesan associations concerned by these loans?

“A number of diocesan associations have requested an EMP from their bank. About ten obtained, for a total of one to two million euros, explains Ambroise Laurent, in charge of economic issues at the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF). All those who obtained an EMP thus obtained a state guarantee. “

The document detailing the eligibility rules for the EMP available to Bpifrance mentions “Any association or foundation that is registered with the RNEE (national directory of companies and establishments, editor’s note), which employs an employee or pays taxes or receives a public subsidy ”. “Diocesan associations must a priori fall within this framework, because they are listed in the RNEE”, considers Nathalie Police.

Problem: the decree of 23 March specifies that associations and foundations of the social and solidarity economy, having an economic activity within the meaning of Article 1 are concerneder of Law 2014-856. Which specifically evokes the “Associations governed by the law of 1er July 1901 ”. “Diocesan associations falling under the law of 1905 are therefore not eligible for the PGE”, we conclude from the side of the cabinet of the Minister of Finance, Bruno Le Maire. However, explains Ambroise Laurent, “ religious associations are also associations governed by the law of 1er July 1901 “. According to article 18 of the law of December 9, 1905, “lThe associations formed to provide for the costs, maintenance and public exercise of worship must be formed in accordance with Articles 5 and following of Title I of the Law of July 1, 1901. ” The distinction drawn by the office of the finance minister is therefore irrelevant.

► What problem does this pose?

The problem is that the 1905 law specifies that “The state does not subsidize cults, recalls Thierry Guillois, president of the legal and tax commission at the High Council for associative life. But the loans were made. And if Bpifrance is committed, it is opposable by the bank “.

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At Bercy, it is believed to be a “Good faith error on the part of the banks, because the loans were granted without a priori state control”. And to add that “If the bank calls on the state guarantee in the event of default by a diocesan association, the state will refuse to grant its guarantee”. An interpretation that Ambroise Laurent disputes. “ There was no mistake from the banks, or the BPI, or the diocesan associations, he assures. Deny diocesan associations access to the EMP would have been clearly discriminatory to the detriment of these employers’ associations compared to all the others on the sole ground that they are religious.

“The State has made a case-by-case decision on all individual requests”, through the certificates requested from Bpifrance, notes Ambroise Laurent. “So there is no controversy. It is not a subsidy, nor a salary, just a guarantee given to a bank. ” ” Anyway, he concludes, the Church in France always honors its commitments. There will be no default. “