The EBRD has achieved a historic record in Serbia in 2019 with €516 million of new financial commitments, lifting the Bank’s results to a new level, especially in the private sector and the green economy.
In total, the EBRD signed more than 20 new projects and registered the highest investment volume in the country since Serbia joined the EBRD in 2001.
“We are delighted with the results achieved”, says Zsuzsanna Hargitai, EBRD Director for the Western Balkans. “Our commercial financial institution partners continue playing a key role in channelling targeted and tailored EBRD funding to small businesses and retail customers. Private corporates, such as Tarkett, Karlovarske Mineralny Vody, Teraplast and United Group, have benefited from EBRD debt and equity financing for their expansion in Serbia. We take particular pride in leading financing for the first public-private partnership in the region for environmental infrastructure in Vinča, Belgrade, to be constructed in line with EU standards”.
Fostering the competitiveness of the private sector, supporting Serbia’s environmental infrastructure and supporting investments in energy efficiency and clean energy remain the Bank’s key priorities in the country.
To enhance the competitiveness of the private sector, the Bank channelled €226.2 million in credit lines to commercial banks for on-lending to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), while it channelled €5 million direct financings through WB EDIF and Enterprise Expansion Fund. SMEs were also given access to credit lines blended with incentives funded by the European Union, while 140 SMEs received advisory support for building export capacity, digitalisation, marketing, financial management or business skills development.
Sweden and Luxembourg continued to support women entrepreneurs with training and tailor-made advisory support, and Luxembourg additionally supported new Star Venture Programme designed to boost the growth of selected high potential start-ups. The EBRD also on-lent €40 million in credit lines to commercial banks for supporting mortgage financing in line with best business practices and standards.
The EBRD committed financing for the rehabilitation of the 40-year old Vinča landfill in Belgrade and the construction of new landfill and waste-to-energy facilities. The EBRD contributed a €72.25 million loan to this milestone project and mobilised €35 million provided by Erste Group Bank AG under the A/B loan structure, and €21 million in concessional finance funded by TaiwanICDF.
The EBRD further supported Serbia’s transport infrastructure with an additional €100 million loan to the state-owned passenger railway company Srbija Voz to buy up to 18 new trains. As well as investing in the new fleet, the EBRD also helped the company improve its corporate governance, expand and upgrade a railway depot in Zemun as well as improving its IT systems, energy management and ticket sales, thus contributing to overall modernisation of the national railway.
In the agriculture sector, the EBRD provided a €15 million loan to Serbia to finance the rehabilitation and construction of irrigation infrastructure in two regions, Negotin and Svilajnac. Serbia’s agricultural infrastructure, which has suffered from severe floods and droughts in recent years, will become more resilient to climate change. The EBRD and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations will additionally assist Serbia to prepare a national irrigation strategy aimed both at increasing the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and adapting it to climate change.
Under its Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF), which started in 2019 and is supported by the European Union, Austria, WBIF and Energy Community, to date the EBRD enabled over 600 households to improve their energy efficiency. Citizens benefited from loans coupled with incentive grants for investments in energy efficiency measures such as insulation, new windows or biomass boilers. In 2019, two local banks, Erste and UniCredit, offered GEFF loans to Serbian citizens. The Bank also extended €10 million under the Global Climate Fund (GCF) – GEFF programme to UniCredit Leasing for supporting SMEs in purchasing energy-efficient equipment.
Other green investments included a €7 million loan to Novi Sad’s public transport operator to buy new, low-emission buses and a €2.5 million loan to the municipality of Šabac for an upgrade of up to 40 multi-storey residential buildings. Both projects will help reduce CO2 emissions and lower energy consumption, thus reducing costs.
In 2019, the EBRD also launched its Renewable District Energy in the Western Balkans programme, supported by Austria, which aims to enable investments in renewable energy sources such as solar or geothermal for district heating systems. Feasibility studies with several cities are currently being finalised to identify investments for financing in 2020-21.
Additionally, Serbia’s two first large-scale windfarms in Čibuk 1 and Kovačica, which the EBRD has financed, were completed in 2019 and are now generating clean energy, increasing the share of renewable energy in the country.
With UK and Luxembourg donor support, good progress was also made in improving the corporate governance of Serbian state-owned enterprises Srbija Voz and EPS, the state-owned power utility, with the EBRD recognised as a leader in state-owned enterprise reform support.