#EBRDmore: doing more in the Western Balkans

By Zsuzsanna  Hargitai
@Hargitaz

After record results, Bank tightens focus on private sector, connectivity and green transition

Port of Adria, Montenegro. 

After record results, Bank tightens focus on private sector, connectivity and green transition

New record investments across the Western Balkans, a €550 million commitment to the Corridor Vc transport artery connecting Bosnia and Herzegovina with EU neighbour Croatia, and a €15 million regional programme backed by the EU to support small business – these are just three examples of the EBRD’s successful work in the six Western Balkan countries in 2018.

In 2018 alone, we intensified our commitment by investing more than €1.1 billion in 67 projects around the region, focusing on the private sector, connectivity and the transition to a green economy. This followed a total of 57 projects for just under €700 million the previous year.

And there is more to come. #EBRDmore.

The EBRD is stepping up its investments and engagements in response to strong market demand for what the Bank can offer.

This includes bespoke financial products -- ranging from long-term equity investment to specific microfinance solutions -- as well as policy dialogue to create the strong institutions needed for successful long-term growth.

And we are closely aligning our activities with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on renewable energy and economic inclusion, where the EBRD is a pioneer in its regions.

Only economies that benefit their people are successful economies. The EBRD is making a vital contribution to this effort, and here’s how.

  • In March 2019, backed by TaiwanICDF, we provided a finance package that will significantly improve the air quality of the Bosnian city of Zenica. The loans will finance a new power plant that no longer relies on heavily polluting coal and will deliver clean energy to the citizens of Zenica and to the ArcelorMital steel plant, the city’s largest employer.
  • In Kosovo, we’ve helped foster innovation with our partner the Innovation Centre Kosovo (ICK), which provides an initial home for new exciting companies. One is J-coders, who provide training to young would-be programmers. Another is Zombie Soup, an ICT solutions provider that exports services to the USA and EU. Creating an eco-system for start-ups in high potential sectors such as ICT, where Kosovo has a comparative advantage, is critical to create the next generation of local companies that can contribute to longer term growth.
  • As countries in the Western Balkans work towards EU accession, the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies that form the backbone of their economies is being underpinned by the launch of EU-backed SME Competitiveness Support programmes across the region. Based on a model launched in Bosnia in 2015, the expanded €15 million regional facility through the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) will help participating companies improve their production capacity, processes and product quality using a blend of instruments(including credit lines for investment) incentives, know-how and advice.
  • We’ve supported over 5000 SMEs in the Western Balkans with our Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded by the EU, Italy, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Small Business Impact Fund (Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the USA). SMEs often represent over 90 per cent of the total number of registered companies and around 70 per cent of employment. Our advisory programme helps them become more competitive in local and foreign markets.  
  • Serbia has reached a milestone in renewable energy with two landmark windfarm projects that will be completed this year. Together with other IFIs, the EBRD supported construction of these two wind farms that will provide energy to around 180,000 households, while reducing CO2 emissions by more than 600,000 tonnes annually.
  • Tirana has completed a Green City Action Plan as a signatory to EBRD Green Cities, our urban greening programme. With EBRD and Austria’s support, the fast-expanding Albanian capital is upgrading the urban water supply for the growing population living at its periphery.

Nada Mišković took a break from managing BioŠpajz to introduce organic laws in Serbia, when she returned she found her business in trouble. Here is how we helped her get back on track.

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The  EBRD is and will remain a relevant partner: financially strong, agile in our operations and flexible in our approach.

In countries which are aligning their legislative and regulatory frameworks with those of the EU in pursuit of future membership, we address the challenges of advancing towards convergence. The EBRD remains available with its own finance and expertise to support policy reforms and investments, leveraging  EU funds in a cost-effective and efficient manner – whether under the highly successful Western Balkans Investment Framework or through national Instruments for Pre-Accession Assistance.  Our priority is to encourage and enable the dynamics of the private sector, while encouraging countries to forge new links among themselves and become more connected with the rest of Europe. Both “soft” connectivity (trade and shared know-how) –or “hard” connectivity– (shared infrastructure) projects are growing in ambition:

  • In Montenegro, our €20 million loan to the privately owned Port of Adria is helping upgrade port services and infrastructure.  With the help of an EBRD-financed crane, the port can move 28 containers an hour instead of 15. Revenue is up 45 per cent. The Turkish operator, Global Ports Holding, has also started welcoming cruise liners. More containers and tourists means more regional trade.
  • The newly created Business and Financial Data Exchange (BIFIDEX), a Western Balkans online businesses registry portal, serves as a one-stop information point for businesses and investors, providing up-to-date information from national business registry agencies. The database includes over 500,000 companies and provides information about company ownership, governance, financial reports and organisational changes.
  • SEE Link, a joint trading platform of seven stock exchanges in southeast Europe, is supported by the EBRD by way of a grant to establish an electronic system for order-routing.

The EBRD has the means, the expertise and the commitment to move forward in all our existing regions. And our donors play a major role in our delivery, both with advice and with finance.

We are as diverse as our countries and as committed as its people: we are doing more to achieve more. #EBRDMore for more growth, more jobs, more prosperity.

Zsuzsanna Hargitai is EBRD Director for the Western Balkans and oversees the Bank’s work in six countries.

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