EBRD President makes first visit to southern and eastern Mediterranean region

By Anthony Williams
@ebrdtony

The country which triggered the wave of changes known as the Arab uprising will be visited by the EBRD President Thomas Mirow from 2-4 May 2012.

Tunisia has been chosen for its symbolism for the President’s first trip to the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region following the Bank’s decision to extend its activities to that region in the wake of sweeping political and economic upheaval.

Along with Jordan, Tunisia became an EBRD shareholder in 2011, joining existing EBRD members Egypt and Morocco in seeking to benefit from EBRD engagement.

During his visit, President Mirow will hold discussions with senior Tunisian officials including Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rafik Abdessalem; Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Riadh Bettaieb; and the Governor of the Central Bank, Mustapha Kamal Nabli.

President Mirow will use the discussions to reinforce the EBRD’s support for economic development in Tunisia and across the SEMED region, applying to these new countries its 20 years of experience in supporting transition in eastern and central Europe.

Speaking ahead of his visit, President Mirow said, “The EBRD is eager to put its experience to work in Tunisia and the wider SEMED region. The people in these countries are seeking an improvement in their lives. The EBRD will play a role in helping them to achieve this goal.”

The Bank’s operations will focus on strengthening the financial sector and developing the private sector in Tunisia and the SEMED countries. The Bank’s emphasis will be to encourage the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises – fertile ground for job creation, in a region where, in particular, youth unemployment is a major problem.

President Mirow will also meet Donald Kaberuka, the President of the African Development Bank, to discuss the coordination between the two financial institutions.

Responding to a call by the international community, the EBRD is extending the remit of its activities to include the SEMED region in a three-stage process that has already seen the first flow of technical assistance funded by grants from donors.

At the EBRD’s Annual Meeting in London this month, shareholders will be asked to approve the creation of a €1 billion special fund to kick-start investments ahead of full ratification of an extension of the Bank’s remit.

The EBRD has the capacity to invest, in the medium term, up to €2.5 billion a year across the SEMED region. Any decision by shareholders to begin full-scale investments will take into account political and economic reforms undertaken in the relevant countries.