EBRD President calls on investors to boost Western Balkans’ economic potential

By Axel  Reiserer

EBRD Western Balkans Investment Summit

Prime Ministers discuss regional prospects at second EBRD Western Balkans Investment Summit

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said today the EBRD would continue to work to improve the investment climate in the Western Balkans and urged investors from the whole world to join the Bank in helping the region achieve its potential.

He was speaking at the EBRD’s second Western Balkans summit at EBRD headquarters, where Prime Ministers from the region joined entrepreneurs and other investors to discuss business opportunities in seven countries.

The EBRD had led the way on investment in the Western Balkans and was determined to continue – and to help create the climate and conditions whereby we and others can commit still more, Sir Suma said in a speech.

“Today’s forum is another opportunity for us, together, to showcase the region’s many strengths – and to invite investors the world over to join us in realising its potential,” he added.

The meeting focussed especially the development of transport links, the potential for renewable energy and the privatisation agenda in the region which comprises Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as well as Croatia.

The opening session by the Prime Ministers was followed by panel discussions which brought together policy makers, experts and investors.

The panel "Extending the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and regional connectivity" chaired by EBRD Managing Director for Infrastructure Thomas Maier discussed how transport links across the Balkans could enable growth and ‎prosperity as well as peace and regional stability. Participants emphasised the need to involve the private sector in financing ambitious infrastructure projects, remove regulatory barriers to connectivity and liberalise the business climate in the Balkans.

Energy links, proposed interconnections, current obstacles to deeper energy market integration and sustainable energy goals as well as the potential for renewable sources for energy, especially hydro power generation, were discussed in the panel "Renewable energy and grid modernisation for a sustainable regional energy model" moderated by the EBRD's Managing Director for Energy and Natural Resources, Riccardo Puliti.

The closing session on”The Privatisation Agenda” was chaired by Holger Muent, the EBRD Director for the Western Balkans. Experts looked at the steps needed to prepare the route to successful privatisation with Serbian Finance Minister Dusan Vujovic drawing on experiences and lessons from his own country. The debate quickly broadened out to a discussion about strengthening economic links to the wider region including the EU.

There was a focus on the development of skills. Emil Tedeschi, CEO of Croatia’s Atlantic Grupa concern, said cultural changes were needed. He called for a paradigm shift that placed a greater emphasis on job creation rather than job preservation.

Sir Suma opened the conference together with UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Maude of Horsham. The EBRD President said: “Regional cooperation is now a reality and this is testimony to the newly achieved maturity and stability of the region. Intensifying regional cooperation is one of the greatest achievements of the Western Balkans, a demonstration of the new vision of its political leaders.”

In the spirit of deepening and intensifying cooperation in the region the EBRD-backed SEE Link, an innovative regional platform for trading securities listed on the Bulgarian, Croatian and Macedonian stock exchanges, was launched during the Summit.

The Serbian and Slovenian bourses confirmed their intention to join the initiative during the conference in London, boosting regional integration of capital markets.

The Summit aims to highlight investment and business opportunities in the region and promote the inflow of foreign direct investment and cross-border projects. Participants included government officials, policy-makers, experts as well as leading domestic and international business representatives.

The event has proved very popular with the public and is being attended by more than 300 guests. The first Western Balkans summit was held two years ago in February 2014.

The EBRD is one of the largest investors in the Western Balkans and last year alone the Bank invested around €1 billion in various projects from energy efficiency to infrastructure and from support for financial institutions to agribusiness.

Full video coverage of the Summit is available on demand on the EBRD YouTube channel. For updates, follow us on Twitter @EBRD #EBRDwb.

Summit video coverage