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The EBRD starts donor-funded activities in southern and eastern Mediterranean

By Anthony Williams

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Donors to the EBRD have started to make significant contributions that will allow the Bank to begin its activities in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region. The first donor-funded project is under way in Egypt.

So far over €59 million in donor funds has been made available as part of the first phase of the EBRD’s economic response to the important political developments in North Africa and the Middle East. The use of donor funds for technical cooperation will lay the groundwork for forthcoming investments, once shareholders ratify amendments to EBRD statutes to allow the Bank to invest in SEMED. The EBRD will join forces with other institutions already active in the region to maximise the impact of its operations.

The European Union (EU) has signed agreements with the Bank to provide €20 million for technical cooperation activities in the Bank's prospective new countries of operations. This contribution was approved under the EU Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) and comprises €15 million for a project preparation framework and €5 million for the EBRD Small Business Services.

"The launch of the EBRD's operations in the southern and eastern Mediterranean will bring much-needed private sector development expertise to this region. This is why the EU provided €20 million in cooperation funds to support the start up of operations through the Neighbourhood Investment Facility," said Stefan Fule, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy.

Nine other donors have pledged funds for the Bank's activities in the SEMED region. Australia and Italy pledged €0.5 million each, Finland €3.5 million, France €3 million, Germany €1 million, the Netherlands and Norway €2 million each, Sweden €1 million and the UK £5 million (€5.8 million) and the EBRD itself has contributed a further €20 million from its net income allocation to a fast start of activities in the SEMED region.

"The EBRD is ready to assist in the changes occurring across Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, putting to work its 20 years of experience in transition," said EBRD President Thomas Mirow.

The first donor-funded project that has been agreed will help Fast Transport Group, an Egyptian-owned small business that provides private transportation services in Alexandria, to expand services to Cairo and to improve its business model and management. Delivered by the Bank's Enterprise Growth Programme, this is the first in a strong pipeline of projects to come in the months ahead.

The EBRD's Small Business Support team provides business advice and consultancy services to small and medium-sized businesses – which are the main drivers of economic growth and job creation in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region.

The EBRD has the capacity to invest, eventually, as much as €2.5 billion a year across the southern and eastern Mediterranean region. For the Bank to begin investing, countries in the SEMED region will need to demonstrate their commitment to and application of principles of multiparty democracy, pluralism and market economics, in accordance with the Bank's statutes.

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