EBRD prepares response to Balkans floods

By Viktorija Melohina

The EBRD is stepping up its engagement in the Balkans to help deal with the aftermath of devastating floods in the region.

The Bank will consider supporting the recovery of local businesses and the reconstruction of local infrastructure in the region. Support from the EBRD will be provided in coordination with other International Financial Institutions.

During a three-day visit to Serbia’s capital Belgrade starting on Wednesday, 21 May, EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti will have the opportunity to discuss in more detail the priorities of the new Serbian government as it responds to the impact of the flooding.

The meetings will also be an opportunity to take stock of the EBRD's activities in the country so far and to discuss its cooperation with the new authorities in Serbia and the Bank’s future work as outlined in the new country strategy for Serbia.

The flooding has inflicted severe damage across the Balkans and had a major impact on business, housing and infrastructure. Much of Bosnia and Herzegovina, eastern Croatia and Serbia are under water with an imminent threat of spill over into the neighbouring countries.

Flooding has led to loss of life and hundreds of thousands of people have been left without drinking water and forced to leave their homes.

The economic damage from the flooding may be substantial. Power generation has been reduced by 40 per cent in Serbia alone. The damage to roads and other infrastructure will cause major problems for the free movement of goods and people and is likely to affect small businesses across the region disproportionately.

“I am deeply saddened by these events and the loss of life that has been caused. I am moved by the courage of people who have reached out to support each other during this hugely difficult time. We are working on a support package in coordination with other IFIs to provide assistance where it is most needed,” Sir Suma said ahead of his visit to Belgrade.

During his visit, the EBRD President will meet key members of the government, starting with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. The response to the flooding and the EBRD’s support in improving the investment climate, strengthening regional integration and promoting sustainable development will be among the subjects for discussion in Sir Suma’s meetings.

President Chakrabarti will also hold a series of other meetings with state officials, including with President Tomislav Nikolic, Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali, Minister of Finance Lazar Krstic, Minister of Economy Dusan Vujovic, National Bank Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic and Minister for Public Administration and Local Self Government Kori Udovički.

The EBRD invested over €1.2 billion in over 80 projects in the Western Balkans and Croatia in 2013 and had been expecting the same level of engagement this year.