The European Investment Bank (EIB) and UniCredit Bank Serbia (UniCredit) have officially launched a €30 million credit line aimed at supporting the employment, professional training and long-term retention of people from vulnerable social groups.
These funds will enable UniCredit to on-lend to Serbian companies that are committed to improving the social impact of their businesses and creating long-term employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women, young people and segments of the population that face higher entry barriers to the labour market. Representatives of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the EU Delegation to Serbia attended the launch ceremony, expressing support for this kind of socially-oriented financial instruments.
In addition to funding, Serbian companies will receive a performance-based financial reward if they meet specific targets to foster leadership, employment and professional development opportunities for women, young people and groups that often face additional barriers to accessing such opportunities (people with disabilities, refugees etc.). The financial reward is provided as a grant under the EIB’s Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI), aimed at boosting job creation and sustainable private sector growth. This is the first EIB private sector loan in the Western Balkans under the ERI, which will contribute to the most important goals involved in promoting sustainable development. The EIB will also provide technical assistance for the preparation and implementation of projects in order to achieve the set goals that will have a wider social impact.
“This innovative loan is part of the EIB’s response to current crises, as we endeavour to address existing social disparities and set a path to more socially inclusive growth. It comes under our new branch — EIB Global — that we set up to increase the impact of development finance, expand our partnerships within Team Europe and enhance the reach of our financial and technical assistance beyond the European Union, including in Serbia and the whole Western Balkans region. Our cooperation with UniCredit is an exemplary model that is helping us increase our support both for socially responsible companies and for hard-to-employ social groups in overcoming the employment barriers. In this way, we are contributing to the socioeconomic growth of Serbia and creation of equal opportunities for all,” said EIB Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova who is responsible for the Western Balkans.
“Sustainability is a key pillar of UniCredit’s business strategy and this includes our strong social commitment. Today I am particularly pleased to be able, together with colleagues from our local Bank in Serbia, to support the start of this unique new credit line in cooperation with the European Investment Bank. Our Group is continuously working to support relevant projects and initiatives focused on creating sustainable long-term value in our communities“, said Teodora Petkova, Head of Eastern Europe at UniCredit. „We have a longstanding collaboration with the EIB Group. During the last years we collectively launched various risk sharing solutions in Central and Eastern Europe that have helped more than 10,000 clients, enabling more than EUR 2,5 billion new loans. I believe that our successful partnership will continue in the future and would also like to thank the representatives of the Government of the Republic of Serbia for recognising the high value that this unique credit line brings.”, she added.
“We are extremely proud that the European Investment Bank has recognised UniCredit Bank as a true partner and that we are the first bank in the Western Balkans to sign a loan agreement under the Initiative for Strengthening Economic Resilience. I always emphasise the importance of the small and medium enterprises sector, which is the main pillar of our country’s economic progress, and I am sure that this credit line contributes to further improving the development of our economy, with the goal of building a more sustainable society. UniCredit Bank Serbia remains a partner to the state, to our local companies and to citizens, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the representatives of the Government of the Republic of Serbia who, with their presence and support, have contributed to the importance of promoting this credit line. So far, UniCredit Bank and UniCredit Leasing, together with the EIB, have invested over 219 million euros for projects in Serbia.”, said Nikola Vuletić, President of the Executive Board of UniCredit Bank Serbia.
The Head of the project department in charge for Economy and SME’s of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia Martin Klaucke said: “This is just another expression of how the EU supports the economy in Serbia and helps businesses become successful while promoting social inclusion. We as the EU provide many grants and enable credits as well. This project can serve both purposes: to lower hurdles for employment for people who are in greater need for inclusion into the labour market while not forgetting about the economic aspects of the company. It is both socially and economically a great endeavour.”
Minister of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs Darija Kisić pointed out that these projects support companies with a strong social mission in helping vulnerable groups and categories of the population who have difficulty finding work. In her address, Commissioner for the Protection of Equality Brankica Janković emphasised how important it is for all of us to be the initiators and bearers of change, and to share the value of equal rights for all to improve our society. Gordana Gavrilović, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister for Gender Equality supported this project and invited all companies to follow the example of the EIB and UniCredit and contribute to creation of an equal and inclusive society in Serbia.