At the EU Western Balkans Summit held in Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia, the President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Werner Hoyer, accompanied by EIB Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova, reiterated the EU bank’s support for EU integration in the region, sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and digitalisation of the regional market.
These goals are part of the European Union’s Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) for the Western Balkans, which outlines an investment package worth close to €30 billion for boosting more sustainable, green, digital and people-focused growth in the region.
Under the Team Europe initiative, the EIB intends to contribute to the rollout of this important plan with extensive financial and advisory support. This aims to accelerate the preparation and implementation of key projects for sustainable connectivity, digitalisation and a green transition that will help mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change. These initiatives are essential for spurring long-term economic recovery, regional cooperation and convergence with EU standards.
EIB President Werner Hoyer said: “The European Investment Bank’s support will be reinforced by an increased local presence and a tailor-made approach to this region of Europe. This Plan reconfirms the EU’s role as the principal partner. It allows for EU norms and standards to be embedded in the region – before EU accession. This will expedite the socio-economic integration of countries within the region and their integration with the EU. It will ensure quality investment and transparency, through rigorous procurement requirements.”
The EU Bank will intensify collaboration with all key partners in the public and private sector for rolling out the key projects and financial products essential for the economic transformation of the region, extending its support beyond financing to policy dialogue, capacity building and advancing on the EU Acquis. A recent and important example of this approach is the first Western Balkans Rail Summit organised by the EIB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Commission and the Transport Community and held in Belgrade. Construction works have also begun on Railway Corridor X in Niš, a key sustainable transport project in the Western Balkans.
“We have successfully delivered on our commitment to contribute € 1.7 billion as an immediate response to COVID-19, including—among many other projects—guarantee schemes for youth employment, digitalisation of schools and support for SMEs to increase their social impact, in particular on gender and inter-generational equality. As the EU Climate Bank, we are fully committed to supporting investment in cleaner energy, climate adaptation and green technological development.“, President Hoyer concluded.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the EIB has allocated €715 million to the private sector under the Team Europe initiative to help save jobs and businesses, accelerate recovery and the transformation to a green and digital model. In 2021, the EU bank has already signed projects worth close to €600 million, which is expected to unlock €1.2 billion of investments. These funds are dedicated to ensuring a faster recovery of small and medium enterprises across the region, the introduction of more diverse, reliable and efficient energy network in Serbia and the improvement of the urban transport network in Sarajevo. At the same time, the EIB continued to help in the preparation of a number of projects through extensive technical advisory support both from its own resources and through EU grants. The most recent is a €1.2 million grant allocated to Republika Srpska to support an upgrade to the quality of water and wastewater services for over 216, 000 people.
EIB Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova, who isresponsible for the Western Balkans region, reaffirmed this commitment in the context of future projects: “The EIB has already signed a number of sustainable investments for the region. The aim was to improve digital infrastructure and skills, modernise key railway, waterway and urban transport networks, and to enable inclusive employment with the first impact incentive loan signed in 2020. With these and upcoming investments, we intend to cement the EIB’s role as the leading financier of green, sustainable, digital and inclusive projects in the region.”