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EBRD and EU support SME competitiveness in Serbia

By Bojana Vlajcic

  • EBRD €20 million loan for lending to SMEs, with 50 per cent for green investments
  • Added EU-funded cashback incentive for SMEs worth 15 per cent of the loan amount
  • Collaborating to build a green, competitive and well-integrated economy in Serbia

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing a €20 million loan to UniCredit Leasing Serbia to support local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in investing to boost their competitiveness. More than half of the total loan amount will finance investments in green technology and energy efficiency.

The loan will give SMEs in Serbia access to finance, enabling them to go beyond their day-to-day operations and invest in upgrades with a view to reaching EU standards. SMEs can use the funds to upgrade technology, processes or services, particularly those related to product quality, health and safety and EU environmental requirements.

SMEs can also obtain technical assistance, including EBRD advisory support, and once they have successfully completed their investment, will be eligible for a cashback grant of 15 per cent of the total loan amount ‒ both of which will be funded by the European Union.

These investments will be channelled through the Western Balkans SME Competitiveness Support Programme, to which the EBRD provides loans and the European Union contributes incentive payments and technical assistance. The goal is to help SMEs modernise their activities and take advantage of trade opportunities in the Western Balkans region and the wider European market.

The programme is implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of Serbia. At the ministry’s suggestion, the European Union has approved an additional €10 million in Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funding for the EBRD's SME Competitiveness Programme in the country.

Zsuzsanna Hargitai, EBRD Regional Director, Western Balkans and Head of Serbia, said: “Access to well-structured financial and advisory support can encourage local firms to invest in boosting their competitiveness, and we have seen how this can help local firms grow into champions. This is why we remain united with our partners, the European Union and the Ministry of Economy of Serbia, in our aim to continue to improve access to finance for SMEs in Serbia.” 

Ana Milić, President of the Management of UniCredit Leasing Serbia, said: “We are very pleased to be a reliable EBRD partner for boosting the development of small and medium enterprises in Serbia. This segment of the economy has a huge potential, so our goal is to enable easier access to financing that will allow them to reach EU standards and, in this way, expand their businesses. Moreover, we are very pleased that half of the total loan amount will support investments in green technology and energy efficiency, which is in line with UniCredit's strategic commitment to sustainable value creation.”

Anđelka Atanasković, Minister of Economy of Serbia, said: “One of the main goals of the Ministry of Economy is to support small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs since their development is crucial for the sustainable growth of the Serbian economy. In achieving this goal, it is important to ensure their continued access to financial resources. That is why I am especially pleased that another financial institution has enabled small and medium enterprises to have more money available for investment into modern equipment. In this way, they will improve their business operations, enhance competitiveness and create new jobs, thereby strengthening the Serbian economy and improving the citizens’ standard of living, which is especially important at a time when we are affected by the Covid 19 virus pandemic.”

Martin Klaucke, Head of Operations Section, EU Delegation to Serbia, stated: “Small and medium-sized enterprises are vital for the Western Balkan economies and have been particularly hit by this crisis. That is why, building on our longstanding cooperation with the ERBD in the region, we are increasing our support to SMEs – not only to keep businesses afloat, but also to strengthen their resilience and sow the seeds for a sustainable recovery. The EU-funded projects in Serbia promote job creation, economic and technological development and legislative framework improvement, all of which contribute to an improved economic landscape. ”

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