The EBRD’s 20-year presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Delivered by: 

EBRD President, Sir Suma Chakrabarti

Venue: 

The Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo

Event: 

Reception marking the EBRD’s 25th anniversary and 20 year presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dear Minister Sarovic, ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

First thing to say is just how pleased I am to be back in Sarajevo, three years after my last visit.

We have gathered today to celebrate 25 years of the EBRD’s existence, but also 20 years of our work  in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But first of all, let me use this opportunity to issue an advance invitation to you all to the 2019 EBRD Annual Meeting here in Sarajevo.

The EBRD Annual Meeting has become a bit like the Olympics – a lot of countries want to host us!

We chose the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina for our most important annual event because this country and this region are extremely important to us at the EBRD.

But also because we want more people to visit this beautiful city and country, enjoy your famous art, music and food, and discover new investment opportunities. I am really already looking forward to this event.

Now some twenty-five years ago, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the EBRD was created to help build a new, post-Cold War era in central and eastern Europe. Our role was to help countries on their way to becoming market-oriented economies and to promote private and entrepreneurial initiative. We have since invested over €110 billion in 37 countries spanning from North Africa to the Mongolian steppe.

Our first ever project, in 1991, was a loan to a Polish bank.

And your region was meant to be one of our first recipients, alongside Poland and other countries of the emerging Europe. But we were, unfortunately, delayed by the conflicts here.

It was in August 1996, only nine months after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, that the EBRD opened its office in Sarajevo.

Reconstruction

And it won’t surprise you that back in 1996, our first priority here was reconstruction, which is in our name.

Our first project in this country was signed in December 1996. It was to provide $32.7 million for the reconstruction of war-damaged transport links. These included the airports in Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka, roads, bridges and tunnels. Those were the sort of projects we started with.

In the last 20 years, we have supported a number of crucial transport and energy projects, and ended up becoming the largest institutional investor in the country.

The majority of  nearly €2 billion we have invested here has been in infrastructure, and we are still focusing on this sector.

One particular project is of major importance for the country, and that is Corridor Vc, which will be the first motorway connecting Bosnia and Herzegovina to the wider European motorway network and to EU markets.

We discussed this project at our Western Balkans Investment Summit in February in London. We are working on financing some of the missing sections.

I want to stress that we are prepared to finance the project all the way to successful completion, including any possible public-private partnerships.

This Corridor Vc project, I think, symbolises how we are shifting our focus to another very important word in our name: development.

Development

It is time to develop the resilient economy, to develop the private sector, to develop cross-border links.

It is a really good time for development in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are seeing strong growth in the country, and in fact we are planning to invest at record levels over the next two years here, about €200 million each year.

Our investment will really try and unlock this country’s potential in many areas, from manufacturing to clean energy.

We would like to really help Bosnia and Herzegovina increase the amount of FDI.

So we are very encouraged by the Reform Agenda developed by the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was drawn up with the participation of the EU and multilateral institutions, including the EBRD, and is strongly supported across the political spectrum in the country.

So the Reform Agenda really gives us the platform for scaling EBRD investment.

We hope the Reform Agenda will enable the EBRD to really boost the development of the private sector and to increase our lending to corporates, while maintaining our pace on transport and energy investments.

We believe the Reform Agenda needs to be supported by further improvements in investment climate and governance reform. That is why we are now working to extend our Investment Climate and Governance Initiative to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help this country reduce the barriers to doing business. We are ready to provide support in other areas of reform too, in close coordination with the EU, multilateral development banks and other partners.

We hope these reforms will attract new investors to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Europe

Reforms are also the best way towards Europe.

This country and the rest of the Western Balkans have clear European prospects. 

I am very pleased with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s recent progress on EU approximation, highlighted by the formal application for EU membership earlier this year.

This is a remarkable milestone, one which will strengthen the country’s stability and boost investors’ sentiment.

I congratulate the authorities and people of Bosnia and Herzegovina for this achievement.

I am also heartened by the [proposed] new IMF programme, which should catalyse other investment and provide a further anchor for economic and social reforms, and I hope the IMF will approve it in the near future.

So, ladies and gentlemen, Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the right track.

Western Balkans

And the country is also playing an important role in the regional dialogue in the Western Balkans.

We at the EBRD see cross-border integration and cooperation as one of our priorities, especially in this region. 

There has been a remarkable spirit of cooperation in recent years among the leaders of the Western Balkans region, including you, Minister Sarovic, and your colleagues.

The dialogue between the six prime ministers was started by the EBRD in London, in 2014, at the first Western Balkans Investment Summit. Then it was taken forward in the Berlin process. Then we had our second Western Balkans Investment Summit in London this February.

I am very proud that we are playing this role in the Western Balkans dialogue, and I am very proud of what we have achieved here in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Conclusion

I want to finish by saying a couple of words about the relationship between the EBRD and your country.

Like many other countries, citizens are looking for tangible gains from institutions like mine.

Tomorrow, I will be signing a new project with the Minister of Finance, to connect a third of the households in the municipality of Visoko to the water network for the first time, and so bring the water quality up to European Union standards.

11,500 people will be connected to a supply of clean, potable water. And frankly, what better way to celebrate our 20th anniversary here?

This success of EBRD in Bosnia and Herzegovina – close to €2 billion invested in crucial projects improving people’s lives – is the result of the hard work of the EBRD team.

Projects like Visoko water supply, and other 133 projects we supported here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, would not have been possible without a tremendous effort from my colleagues here in our Resident Office.

I want to thank Ian Brown in particular for having led our Resident Office here in Sarajevo with such great passion and skill.  Raising the Bank’s investment to record levels and promoting policy dialogue on improving the investment climate owe a lot to Ian’s leadership and to his team.

Let me now raise the glass to the EBRD, and our team in Sarajevo.

But let me also raise the glass to you, our partners and friends, who helped us on this journey. I wish you all many more achievements in the future. 

Thank you very much.