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Romania remains a major priority for the EBRD

By Anthony Williams

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The EBRD reached out to small Romanian companies on Monday during a week when EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti's first visit to the country underscored the Bank's long-term commitment to this south eastern European economy.

Romania has become the EBRD's third largest country of operations in terms of business portfolio following five years of strong investment during the global economic crisis.

The Bank has provided financing of €2.8 billion since 2008, with over €600 million flowing just last year.

Sir Suma told senior politicians during his visit that the EBRD was likely to invest another €0.5 billion in 2013.

He looked ahead to an important investment due shortly in the telecoms sector which is aimed at helping to build up the knowledge economy and raise the level of competition in the industry.

On Monday the EBRD signed a loan worth €80 million with the BCR banking group for on lending to SMEs. One major focus of this loan was to get funds out to more remote areas where development is less advanced than in major cities likes Bucharest.

The credit is part of the EBRD's drive to support the recovery in southern and eastern Europe and to prepare for more robust growth in the future.

EBRD support helps ensure long-term growth - Prime Minister says

The pace of economic growth fell sharply last year, with expansion just above 0.5 per cent. The economy is picking up more strongly than expected so far this year.

"But to make this growth sustainable in the long term we need the support of the EBRD," Prime Minister Victor Ponta told journalists after his meeting with Sir Suma.

Supporting that longer-term growth trajectory was core to all of the discussions in Bucharest.

High on the government's agenda was a plan to galvanise the absorption of EU funds, which at 15 per cent is still the lowest in the Union.

Sir Suma told the Prime Minister the EBRD was very eager to bring to Romania its Fund for Local Authorities and Government (FLAG) that had been very successful in Bulgaria.

“The most important 48 km in Romania”

Officials also raised the issue of the very significant infrastructure investments that were still needed in Romania

They referred specifically to the gap in the highway between the cities of Brasov and Cormarnic in the mountains of central Romania.

This gap had created a major interruption in a key transport link between northern and southern Europe - from northern Germany down to Istanbul.

The Prime Minister told Sir Suma that improving roads in general was a major concern for the Romanian people. But this stretch to Brasov was the "most important 49 km in Romania". Completing this stretch "would unblock the whole country" he said.

Prime Minister Ponta appealed directly for support from institutions like the EBRD to help build the road.

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