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The history of the EBRD

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was established to help build a new, post-Cold War era in Central and Eastern Europe. It has since played a historic role and gained unique expertise in fostering change in the region - and beyond.

The EBRD is committed to furthering progress towards, in the words of its founding articles, ‘market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative’. This has been its guiding principle since its creation at the beginning of the 1990s and, new challenges and the welcoming of new countries to the EBRD world notwithstanding, will continue to be its mission in years to come.

The EBRD was set up in haste to meet the challenge of an extraordinary moment in Europe’s history, the collapse of communism in its East. In fact, a mere 18 months elapsed between the first mooting of the idea of a European bank, by President François Mitterrand of France, in October 1989 and its opening for business with headquarters in London in April 1991.

Urgency and the ability to respond to momentous events swiftly and decisively, whether it be the end of the Soviet Union, financial crises or the ‘Arab Spring,’ have been one of the bank’s hallmarks from the start.

During the frenetic years of the early 1990s the Bank’s emphasis on the private sector as the main motor for change in Central and Eastern Europe was vindicated many times over. This was the period that established the EBRD’s reputation as an expert on transition to the open market.

It was heavily involved in areas such as banking systems reform, the liberalisation of prices, privatisation (legalisation and policy dialogue) and the creation of proper legal frameworks for property rights, all vital ingredients for change.

Such reforms were supported by sound advice, training and technical expertise, and supplemented by major investments in the private and public sectors. With domestic capital on its own insufficient to finance transition, the Bank helped to bring in external capital from both private and public sources.

Such experience has stood the Bank in good stead when it has expanded its original region of operations into new countries such as Mongolia (in 2006), Turkey (2009) and Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Kosovo (in 2012). It is currently active in more than 30 countries from central Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean. The Czech Republic is the only member to have ‘graduated’ from the EBRD and no longer receives investment from the Bank.

The EBRD’s understanding of how a market economy works and engagement with other international financial institutions also allowed the Bank to play a crucial role in stabilising the region and planning for recovery after the shock of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Uniquely for a development bank, the EBRD has a political mandate in that it assists only those countries ‘committed to and applying the principles of multi-party democracy [and]pluralism’. Safeguarding the environment and a commitment to sustainable energy are also central to the Bank’s activity.

The EBRD serves the interests of all its shareholders - 64 countries plus the European Union and the European Investment Bank -, not just those countries which receive its investments (€9.1 billion in 2011). We all stand to gain from the EBRD region’s closer and deeper integration into the global economy.


Last updated 18 December 2012

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PRESIDENTS OF THE BANK

July 2012 - Present: Sir Suma Chakrabarti
July 2008 - July 2012: Thomas Mirow
July 2000 - July 2008: Jean Lemierre
Sep 1998 - Apr 2000:
Horst Köhler
Sep 1993 - Jan 1998:
Jacques de Larosière
Apr 1991 - Jun 1993:
Jacques Attali

ANNIVERSARY HIGHLIGHTS

20 years: twenty projects
A photographic journey sampling the work of the EBRD through its projects
View page

20 years: twenty cities
Take a bird's eye view of the EBRD's work by exploring our newly published map
View map

20 years: twenty facts
All you need to know for the next EBRD quiz!
View page

20 years: President's message
Listen to the EBRD's President Mirow setting out the Bank's achievements and vision 

20th anniversary press release