>@Marco Santarelli/EIB
©Marco Santarelli/EIB

A delegation led by President Werner Hoyer and Vice-President Dario Scannapieco participated in the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has confirmed its role as one of the leading international financiers in the Western Balkans. It has signed EUR 6.4 billion of loans since 2006 and disbursed around EUR 1.2 billion to projects in the region in the last two years alone. An EIB Group delegation, led by EIB President Werner Hoyer and EIB Vice-President Dario Scannapieco participated yesterday in the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste (Italy). In several meetings and at the official dinner with heads of states and government, the EIB representatives reaffirmed their commitment to further supporting the region on its path towards European integration.

Special focus is given to the Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI), the instrument launched by the EIB in 2016 in the context of the wave of migration into the EU. The ERI is intensifying EIB support to the EU’s neighbouring countries, in particular the Southern Neighbourhood and the Balkans. It is addressing social and economic infrastructure gaps and private sector-led growth and job creation. Thanks to the Resilience Initiative, the EIB is increasing its financing to these regions by EUR 6 billion over a five-year period – over and above the EUR 7.5 billion already envisaged – to catalyse up to EUR 15 billion of additional investment in both the Southern Neighbourhood and the Western Balkans. This will bring the EIB’s total mobilisation of investment in these regions to some EUR 35 billion. Around a third of this investment is set to be dedicated to the Western Balkans region.

At the summit, EIB Group representatives signed operations totalling EUR 70 million across the region, including a EUR 50 million loan to Serbia in the context of the Resilience Initiative. Furthermore, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing the framework to strengthen cooperation between the EIB and Government of Kosovo* in the sectors of transport, energy, municipal and environmental infrastructure, climate action, education, health and innovation, and SMEs.

In these times of economic and social challenges, the EIB is committed to building resilience, supporting investment and increasing the financing needed in the Western Balkans. The rapid implementation of the European Resilience Initiative is reflected in the projects approved by the EU bank so far: EUR 1.2 billion covering seven countries. Of this amount, EUR 162 million is earmarked for the Western Balkans: in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and now also in Serbia. Moreover, as the leading player in transport infrastructure finance the EIB has invested EUR 2.1 billion in the Western Balkans in the last decade, and will continue to help addressing these issues by also financing projects on the Connectivity Agenda. Transport infrastructure is key to growth and competitiveness as it provides the physical networks that enable the movement of people and goods. Better mobility achieves social cohesion, economic growth and employment”, said EIB President Werner Hoyer.

Since 2011 we have signed contracts worth EUR 3.4 billion in the region. An interesting pipeline of potential operations is developing in several sectors: transport, energy, environment and health. But we do not only support big projects. Enabling and ensuring investment by SMEs is also a key part of our activity: in the last five years we have financed 4 888 SMEs and midcaps to the tune of EUR 1.35 billion”, noted Dario Scannapieco, the EIB Vice-President responsible for the Western Balkans and the Resilience Initiative.

At the summit the EIB signed a EUR 50 million loan for clinical centres in Nis, Belgrade, Novi Sad and Kragujevac that will help address infrastructure gaps in the health sector in Serbia.

In addition to that, the European investment fund (EIF, part of the EIB Group for venture capital, private equity and guarantees targeted to SME sector) signed an initial cornerstone commitment in Ascendant Buy-Out Fund, a private equity fund with a target size of EUR 100 million focusing on lower midmarket companies in the Western Balkans.

EIF also signed a letter of intent for an additional injection of funding from the European Commission to the WB EDIF Guarantee Facility, including EUR 20 million for Serbian SMEs and EUR 10 million for supporting youth employment in the region.

EIF Chief Executive Pier Luigi Gilibert said: “EIF is pleased to be contributing to the development of private equity infrastructure in the Western Balkans region by supporting a new independent manager in this underserved market. Our investment in the Fund under the COSME mandate was crucial to attract other local or international investors, enabling the Fund to materialise. In addition, the EUR 30 million WB EDIF Guarantee Facility increase will help to target youth unemployment and improve financing opportunities for SMEs.”