The EBRD will be hosting all seven prime ministers from the Western Balkans and Croatia in London later this month, the first time it has hosted so many heads of governments at its headquarters.
The event on February 24th – the first all-inclusive Western Balkans summit at the EBRD – will provide an ideal opportunity for business leaders and international companies to learn more about the countries and the Bank’s role in them.
“The idea is to present this region as a whole as an investment destination," said the EBRD’s Senior Political Counsellor Oleg Levitin. "We hope that this conference, besides facilitating much needed foreign investment, will send a very strong political message about the maturity and stability of the region.”
Regional integration through road corridors, gas pipelines, expansion in the manufacturing sector and other projects will be at the top of the agenda.
“We believe that regional integration needs to be made a priority,” said Claudio Viezzoli, the EBRD’s Director, Western Balkans.
The EBRD sees supporting and promoting the Western Balkans as particularly important to foster the region‘s development by strengthening its potential. The countries benefit from the IFI Joint Action which includes more than €30 billion of joint commitments for the period 2013-2014 in Central and South Eastern Europe as a whole.
In the Western Balkans and Croatia alone the EBRD invested in more than 80 projects totalling more than €1.2 billion in 2013. This was a new record. Over the years, the total of EBRD investments in the region has reached €10.5 billion.
The Bank is active in all sectors of the economy but has a targeted approach in each country, based on the individual country’s needs and priorities as defined in the respective country strategies.
A major goal of the EBRD’s increased engagement in the region in recent years has been to support the countries in their response to and overcoming the financial crisis which had hit the region hard.
After a protracted period of contraction, in 2013 the countries again registered growth of 2 per cent on average and prospects for growth in 2014 are similar. Particularly interesting for investors are the significant catch-up potential and the efficiencies of increased cross-border economic activity.
The attractiveness of the region for foreign investment has increased thanks to improved political stability and progress in the Euro-Atlantic integration in recent years. Croatia became a member of the European Union in 2013, and Montenegro and Serbia are in the process of membership negotiations. Other countries are continuing on the course of EU approximation. At the same time intensified regional cooperation has significantly brightened economic prospects and the region’s stability.
The EBRD sees itself as a supporter of these processes, a promoter of the interests of the Western Balkans and a door-opener for international and regional investors contemplating an engagement in the region.
The countries have a lot to offer: from fertile soil to a strong industrial tradition, from vibrant entrepreneurship to a proud history of innovation, from rich natural resources to a skilled and educated labour force and to stunningly beautiful landscapes – the Western Balkans have it all.
The Western Balkans investment forum offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the countries and the region and to get in touch with key decision-makers and business representatives.