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    As part of its ongoing dialogue with civil society, the EIB organized a Workshop for NGOs in Thessaloniki on 21 February 2003. The Thessaloniki Workshop followed the one in Copenhagen in June 2002 as part of a series of regionally organized meetings with NGOs. The one day Workshops, taking place in principle twice a year, provide EIB staff and NGOs with a podium to discuss topics for common interest and to learn about each others objectives and activities.


    The agenda of the Thessaloniki Workshop included sessions on water initiatives in the Mediterranean region and the reconstruction process in the Western Balkans. Two case studies in the water sector also featured on the agenda: WWF's report on the Spanish National Hydrological Plan (SNHP) and the Poseidon project of the Greek National Center for Marine Research, a monitoring, forecasting and information system for the seas surrounding Greece.

    The agenda was drawn up in co-operation with interested NGOs. EIB and NGOs both delivered introductions on each session. The Workshop was chaired by EIB Vice-President Peter Sedgwick, Member of the Bank's Management Committee with lead responsibility for EIB relations with NGOs. Constantinos Massouras, Member of the EIB Board of Directors for Greece, delivered an address and was present throughout the meeting. On the margins of the programme, EIB staff and NGO representatives held informal bilateral meetings, for instance to discuss the Bank's public information policy.


    In wrapping up the discussions, Chairman Peter Sedgwick highlighted that the session on Mediterranean water initiatives provided a good overview of the various approaches to encouraging investment in the water sector and the competing interests that need to be integrated to ensure the sector's development. As to the session on the reconstruction process in the Western Balkans, the EIB speaker made clear that the Bank's operations in the region, while still very young, are aimed at building up a balanced portfolio. The EIB is widening its range of operations from its initial focus on infrastructure to include social development and SME finance. The NGO speaker presented a critical view on the Bank's lending for infrastructure projects, claiming that a too large share is going to road projects. A representative of the European Agency for Reconstruction summarized the organization's activity in the Western Balkans, highlighting its role as a catalyst of funding, also including EIB loans.

    Next NGO Workshop

    The next EIB-NGO Workshop is scheduled for Autumn 2003 and will be announced on the EIB website. Interested NGOs will be invited to suggest topics.

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