- EU, bilateral donors and IFIs approve new milestone grants at 21st WBIF steering committee
- EBRD and WBIF invest in transport, environmental and digital sectors as well as SMEs
- New projects to improve daily lives and trade across the region
The EBRD, EU and bilateral donors are stepping up their engagement in the Western Balkans. During the 21st steering committee meeting of the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), €194 million in EU and bilateral grants was approved for new digital, environmental, transport and energy projects across the Western Balkans.
These projects will be supported by loans from the EBRD and other international financial institutions (IFIs). To date, the total commitments of the EU and bilateral donors under the WBIF are in excess of €1 billion, while total investments from IFIs amount to over €5.5 billion.
Grants approved for EBRD projects are expected to leverage more than €400 million in investments. They include the construction of three new motorway sections for Corridor Vc in Bosnia and Herzegovina, two new sections of Corridor X in North Macedonia, the rehabilitation of Kosovo’s railways, wastewater and sewage infrastructure in Gjilan and broadband connectivity for rural schools in Serbia.
The EBRD and the EU also signed two contribution agreements totalling €45 million to support the Advice for Small Business programme in the Western Balkans and the Regional Energy Efficiency Programme. The latter extends support to the residential sector and the rehabilitation of public buildings and is implemented together with KfW Group.
The WBIF is a framework combining resources from donors and IFIs, which aims to strengthen links within the Western Balkans region and to the EU as well as to bolster socioeconomic development.
Since the launch of the WBIF in 2009, more than 800 kilometres of roads have been constructed, including regional roads and new motorway sections that connect the Western Balkans to major European transport corridors. Today, 2.3 million people have access to water and wastewater treatment systems and close to 100,000 students benefit from improved school facilities.
The WBIF also enables improvements in the energy sector, with investments in renewables and energy efficiency projects for residential households and businesses that have contributed to a significant reduction of CO2 levels in the region.
The EBRD serves as a founding member and fund manager of the WBIF. EBRD investments include, for example, the overhaul of the Belgrade public transport fleet, the construction of a wastewater plant in Bijeljina, the construction of sections of Corridor Vc and the rehabilitation of railways in Albania and North Macedonia.
“After 10 years of successful cooperation through the WBIF, the EU and its partners have reached a milestone of providing more than €1 billion in grants, which have leveraged more than €5.5 billion in signed loans from IFIs. Our cooperation has had a tangible impact on the ground: people benefit from better transport connections every day; better energy provisions, including clean energy transition; businesses have become more competitive; and the economies in the region have become greener and more integrated,” said Colin Wolfe, Head of Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes, DG NEAR, European Commission.
Zsuzsanna Hargitai, EBRD Director, Regional Head of the Western Balkans, added: “We work very closely with our partners to build green, sustainable economies in the Western Balkans. Our work in the WBIF is helping achieve this objective by pooling scarce resources in an efficient way. It builds on the strength of policy coordination, cooperation between donors and international financial institutions, as well as country ownership, to achieve strong results.”
The WBIF is a joint initiative by the EU, international financial institutions, bilateral donors and the governments of the Western Balkans and was established to support socioeconomic development and the accession of the Western Balkans countries into the EU.