EBRD and Central European Initiative strengthen integration in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe

By Lucia Sconosciuto

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EBRD and Central European Initiative strengthen integration in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe

25 years of cooperation in the region has supported €3.3 billion of EBRD investments

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Central European Initiative (CEI) are celebrating 25 years of cooperation which has boosted integration in the central, eastern and south-eastern Europe (CESEE) region.

Since Italy established the CEI Fund at the EBRD in April 1992, €43.5 million of CEI grants for 153 technical cooperation projects have enabled about €5.3 billion of international investments in the CESEE region, including €3.3 billion of EBRD investments in a wide range of sectors, including transport, municipal infrastructure and services, energy efficiency and energy security, among others.

The Bank is a strong supporter of the CEI, especially in its EU Accession coordination role. Through the implementation of projects that target economic development and regional integration, the EBRD works together with the CEI countries, the CEI Fund, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and other donors to help achieve common objectives. Furthermore, the EBRD’s collaboration with the CEI helps to promote economic recovery as well as strengthening financial sectors and introducing appropriate regulations through policy reform.

In 2016 Italy provided over €1.5 million in new funds for technical assistance in support of EBRD investments. For example, to help overcome the damage caused by the 2014 floods, the EBRD provided a €65 million loan to Roads of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for repairing the road infrastructure and upgrading important primary sections which carry 90 per cent of the country’s passenger journeys and 70 per cent of its cargo transport.  The CEI Fund provided a €135,000 technical assistance grant to help improve the climate resilience of the road network. In particular, the project is helping establish an institutional framework and introduce international best practice for identifying and managing climate risks to the roads.

In Ukraine, to boost agribusiness, a key economic sector with untapped potential, the EBRD is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the CEI to mobilise the private sector and help the country's farmers increase their skills and knowledge of best practices in sustainable farming. This has resulted in a technical cooperation project focusing on providing training for grain farmers with combined theory and practice: it has included classes at Sumy National Agrarian University as well as field visits to experimental farms, seed companies and research institutes.

Guido Paolucci, CEI Programme Manager, said: “The CEI Fund at the EBRD not only offers resources for technical assistance in support of the EBRD’s investments, but the fruitful partnership between the CEI and the EBRD also provides a platform for policy dialogue with its member countries.  This collaboration helps to strengthen the Bank’s role in the CEI member countries and provides opportunities for targeted investments.  In this way, the CEI helps to boost the strong role the EBRD plays in the CEI member countries, not just through its investments but also as a catalyst for other investors.”

In 2017 the assistance offered through the CEI Fund is set to focus increasingly on non-EU CEI member states (the Western Balkans, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine). Connectivity is at the top of the agenda while priority is also given to the energy efficiency, municipal and environmental infrastructure, transport and agribusiness sectors, as well as support for SME development, including capacity building and policy dialogue in the aforementioned sectors.

The Central European Initiative is a regional forum for cooperation and consultation in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe at political, economic and cultural levels. Founded in 1989, the CEI member states include: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Ukraine. Since its inception, the Initiative’s main aim has focused on supporting transition countries in their integration process with the European Union (EU). To achieve this goal, the CEI seeks to make a sustainable impact on strengthening the capacities of its member states remaining outside of the EU to consolidate their institutional and economic background, thus bringing them closer to the Union.

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