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EBRD marks 25th anniversary

By Anthony Williams

EBRD is seeking to accelerate the process of convergence between emerging economies and their more advanced neighbours

“We take pride in our achievements and relish our challenges”, President Chakrabarti says

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has celebrated its 25th anniversary today, looking back on its successful support for emerging economies over the last quarter of a century and ahead with confidence to future challenges.

Since its creation in 1991, the EBRD has played a key role in the transformation of a region that now spans three continents – from Mongolia in Central Asia to Morocco on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, from Estonia on the Baltic to Egypt on the Mediterranean.

At a ceremony to mark the anniversary, the EBRD’s sixth President, Sir Suma Chakrabarti, said: “As we celebrate our birthday this week, we can take great pride in our achievements.”

The President said that the EBRD would not rest on its laurels but continue to deliver change for good in the countries that it served. Many tasks still had to be addressed. “We are not daunted by the scale of those challenges. We relish them,” Sir Suma added.

It was in Poland that the EBRD delivered its first project under a mandate to promote open-market economies. Since that 1991 loan to a bank based in Poznań, the Bank has invested over than €100 billion in thousands of projects that have reached out to broad sections of economies in more than 30 countries.

It has helped to narrow infrastructure gaps and improve the quality of services delivered by local authorities. It has promoted the development of environmentally-friendly energy to fuel expanding economies and worked to reduce energy waste and pollution.

It has played a key role in supporting the growth of small- and medium-sized firms that are so crucial to job creation and helped ensure more equality of opportunity across societies.

The early days of the EBRD focussed on those economies that were emerging from decades of communist central planning after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

However, the EBRD’s particular expertise in private sector development was later seen as applicable well beyond the borders of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Founding shareholder Turkey was the first country outside of the former Communist bloc to seek EBRD financing, receiving EBRD investments from 2009. It is now the Bank’s largest country as measured by annual investment volume.

Just two years later, in 2011, the international community asked the EBRD to become part of the financial response to fast-moving political change in the Arab world.

The Bank has since invested more than €3.5 billion in projects in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. Lebanon is seeking to join this group.

The EBRD is now also investing temporarily in Greece and Cyprus to help them emerge from deep economic crisis.

Looking forward, the EBRD is seeking to accelerate the process of convergence between emerging economies and their more advanced neighbours, raising levels of prosperity within fairer societies and promoting reforms.

Its strategy for the coming years is guided by three overriding priorities aimed at re-energising the process of transition:

  • Ensuring economies are more resilient to major external shocks - supporting reforms to improve the investment climate, increasing social inclusion, bolstering SMEs that help create jobs, developing local capital and local currency markets.
  • Promoting integration, by supporting investments that strengthen economic, financial and infrastructure links within individual countries and across national borders.
  • Addressing global and regional challenges, such as resource efficiency, combatting climate change, and increasing energy and food security.

At an event to mark the 25th anniversary, the EBRD released the preliminary findings of its third Life in Transition Survey, a comprehensive analysis undertaken in conjunction with the World Bank that captures the expectations, hopes and fears of thousands of citizens across countries in transition.

The new survey concluded that countries in which the Bank invests had gone through a remarkable process of deep economic transformation and structural reform over the last 25 years. However, large parts of the population in the region remain unsatisfied with their life. 

“Closing the ‘happiness gap’ between East and West – through continued economic growth, more macroeconomic stability and more inclusive institutions – is not only important in and of itself.

“Limited life satisfaction undermines popular support for market reforms, development of the private sector and democratic politics, and therefore the EBRD’s work in the transition region continues to be crucial,” the report said.

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