A European Union initiative to improve coordination of investment in the Western Balkans resulted in international donors and financial institutions approving support for 73 projects worth over €6 billion in 2010. The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), launched by the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Council of Europe Development Bank, has already received over 40 applications for financing in 2011.
The new aid framework's contribution to economic development in the region is detailed in its first annual report, published today on www.wbif.eu.
“We learned in the WBIF’s first year of existence that genuine progress comes through cooperation. Looking forward, we are convinced that this innovative financial instrument will stand the test of time,” said Pavel Stepanek, co-chair of the WBIF Steering Committee in 2010. Stepanek represented the Czech Republic, one of 19 countries* that contributed funds in 2010.
The focus of the WBIF in 2010 was on infrastructure. The report lists all projects to which financial assistance was approved. Nearly half (49%) the projects aimed at improving the provision of clean water and sanitation services across the region, followed by support for roads and railways (26%), energy infrastructure (16%) and social infrastructure (9%), such as hospitals and schools.
In 2011, support will be extended to small and medium-sized enterprises, climate change initiatives and other areas.
The WBIF was set up in December 2009 by the European Commission and the partner international financial institutions with the endorsement of European Union Member States. It created a one-stop shop for beneficiary countries, replacing many multilateral and bilateral aid programmes. The WBIF benefits Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244/1999), by combining different types of grant finance with loans from international financial institutions for projects aimed at local development as well as regional integration.
Decisions on which projects to finance are taken twice a year by a Steering Committee, co-chaired by the European Commission and a donor country. This year’s co-chair is Norway and the next meeting is due to be held in Oslo, June 23-24.The Steering Committee is supported by a Project Financiers’ Group, which meets four times a year to assess requests for funding.
Copies of the report can be downloaded from the WBIF website or are available on request from the press office.
* Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, UK.