EBRD stands ready to support North Africa

By Axel  Reiserer

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The EBRD is ready, willing and able to respond to the appeals for support from the people of North Africa if shareholders decide to extend its geographic mandate, EBRD President Thomas Mirow said on Friday in Astana.

At the EBRD’s Annual Meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana, the Bank’s owners - 61 countries and two international organisations - will consider a request from Egypt to become a country where the EBRD invests and also the possibility of a broader expansion of the Bank’s activities in the wider North African region.

Addressing the opening session of the Annual Meeting, President Mirow said the EBRD was fully equipped to become part of an economic response to recent sweeping political changes.

He added, “Beyond the capacity, resources and expertise, I believe we also have a responsibility. The Romans called the Mediterranean the mare nostrum and what happens in the region is indeed of fundamental importance for all of us. The experience with transition is something that can and should be shared. The people in that region, as in ours, deserve to see their political aspirations matched by palpable economic gains.”

Mr Mirow gave an overview of the Bank’s achievements in 2010 when the EBRD recorded a record business volume of €9 billion and an unprecedented number of 386 projects – an increase of 24 per cent compared with 2009. He also informed the governors and delegates that the capital increase granted at the 2010 Annual Meeting has now entered into force and will allow the Bank to maintain and strengthen its activities throughout the region.

Reflecting on the 20th anniversary, which the EBRD celebrated in April and the developments in the Arab world and North Africa, Mr Mirow said: “This year is a special year for us. We take pride in the contribution the EBRD has made to the remarkable progress in our region since the collapse of communism. (…) This year is also special because – like 20 years ago – we are again witnessing historic changes. The EBRD is not a mere observer in this process.”

In his address, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it was “highly symbolic that the 20th anniversary meeting of the most respected and authoritative financial institution in the world coincides with the 20th anniversary of the independence of Kazakhstan.”

For his part, the chair of the EBRD Board of Governors, South Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-Hyun said: “Today we stand before a very important decision to expand (the Bank’s) geographical scope of activities,” adding he was “confident that the EBRD will be at the forefront of furthering development of the market economy and private sectors not just for central and eastern European countries, but also for North Africa.”

Mr Yoon also stressed the qualities needed to take such far-reaching decisions. “I want to remind you that the moment to lead does not come for free. It requires a lot of effort and courage from all of us,” Mr Yoon said.

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