EIB Global has signed a loan of over €550 million and a grant of over €80 million for the Belgrade-Niš section of the Railway Corridor X.
The financial package will allow for substantial modernisation of the railroad tracks, enabling faster travel, larger trade flows and better integration with EU rail networks.
To date, the EIB has invested over €1.2 billion in the rail sector in the Western Balkans, supporting regional cooperation and connectivity.
The Belgrade-Niš section of the Railway Corridor X will receive EIB Global’s financing of up to €1.1 billion, of which €550 million has already been signed. All in all, the European Union is providing a €2.2 billion financing package to Serbia to give this important section of railway a much-needed upgrade that will enable travel speeds of up to 200 km/h between Belgrade and Niš. The package consists of EU investment grants of up to €598 million (the largest EU grant for a single project in Serbia to date), a €1.1 billion EIB loan, as well as a loan of €550 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The European Union has already approved grants worth €265 million, and today marked the signing of the first loan tranche for €82.8 million under the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF).
Held on the train between Belgrade and Niš, the signing ceremony symbolically promoted the financial package. It was attended by the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, together with the EIB Head of the Regional Representation for the Western Balkans Alessandro Bragonzi, Matteo Colangeli, EBRD Director for the Western Balkans region, Serbian Ministers Tanja Miščević (European Integration), Goran Vesić (Construction, Transport and Infrastructure), Siniša Mali (Finance), as well as diplomats of EU member states.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi stated, “We have picked this project because this project is capable of changing the realities on the ground for the people of Serbia, for the people of southern Serbia, and with that, also for the entire region. Because this train should bring growth and jobs, this train should bring investments in areas where it is most needed – in the south of Serbia – but this should also bring a new Serbia and a new region.”
Railway Corridor X is one of the pan-European corridors connecting central Europe with Thessaloniki, Greece. It is part of the EU’s €30 billion Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans which aims to mobilise investments in the areas of transport, energy, green and digital transition, to create sustainable growth and jobs reaching 1/3 of the GDP of the Western Balkans.
EIB Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova responsible for the Western Balkans explained: “As the bank of the European Union, we at the EIB are committed to providing support that is sustainable both for the environment and for our partners’ finances. That is why this partnership to modernise Railway Corridor X is at the heart of EIB Global. By blending our funds, grants and technical assistance from the WBIF and the European Union’s Instrument for Pre-Accession, we have been able to bring this project off the ground faster, and provide the most competitive financing offer.”
The President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić stated: "We are receiving EUR 610 million as a gift, out of a total of 2.7 billion. The biggest aid, the biggest support, the biggest amount of money. When we do this, Niš will be an hour and 40 minutes away from Belgrade, and right now you cannot get there by car in less than two and a half hours. When the railway was built in 1884, it took eight hours to travel, now it takes six and a half. Nothing has changed in 130 years. Now we are changing Serbia, with the help of the European Union."
The funds will enable a substantial upgrade of the railway infrastructure along the Belgrade-Niš section on Corridor X, including the construction of new bridges and tunnels. This will permit travel at speeds of up to 200 km/h and improve Serbia’s connectivity to other European rail networks. It will facilitate faster freight transport services and reduce commuting time to both Niš and Belgrade. Finally, as rail is a clean mode of transport, modernising the railway system will also contribute to a cleaner environment.
Matteo Colangeli, Director for the Western Balkans region and Head of Serbia for the EBRD,added, “Modernising rail infrastructure and making rail transport safer and more efficient is one of our priorities in the Western Balkans and a key enabler for the region’s economic development. We have a longstanding commitment to the Serbian rail sector and we are pleased to team up with the European Union and the EIB on this landmark project.”
Projects in the transport sector funded by the EU in Serbia aim to improve transport connectivity, and thus better economic integration within the region and integration of the region with the EU. In addition, the efforts that the EU invests in the transport sector through these projects are largely focused on market opening and the implementation of the EU standards. Projects funded by the EU have significantly contributed to the railway reform process, the introduction of modern and most cost-effective road transport infrastructure maintenance practices.
About EIB Global
EIB Global is the EIB Group’s new specialised arm devoted to increasing the impact of international partnerships and development finance. EIB Global is designed to foster strong, focused partnerships within Team Europe, alongside fellow development finance institutions and civil society. EIB Global brings the EIB Group closer to local people, companies and institutions through our offices around the world.
About the EIB in Serbia
The EIB has been active in Serbia since 1977, providing finance to support key infrastructure projects, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), industry, services and local authorities. Since becoming active in the country, it has enabled over €7.2 billion of investments to support SMEs and revitalise transportation, education, healthcare and utility infrastructure. For more information on EIB projects in Serbia, please visit https://www.eib.org/projects/regions/enlargement/the-western-balkans/serbia/index.htm.
About the EIB in the Western Balkans
The EIB is one of the leading international financiers in the Western Balkans. Since 2009, the Bank has financed projects in the region totalling €10.3 billion.
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