I deeply appreciate the opportunity the EU Climate Bank to participate at this forum that fosters regional cooperation and economic ties.
Since 2009 to date, the EIB has invested almost EUR 9.5bn in the Western Balkans across sectors, supporting the vital infrastructure and private sector development, which makes the EIB one of the largest international lenders in the region.
The European Union has demonstrated its unwavering solidarity to help overcome unforeseen challenges, in Europe and beyond, during the past years.
The EIB stood ready to deliver when the Europe has faced joint challenges over the past decade. During the sovereign crisis and amidst the pandemic alike, the EIB was turned into a countercyclical economic policy instrument, so that in times of a liquidity deficit we could restart investment on the continent.
Moreover, advisory services are another core element of our activities which makes EIB different from other financial institutions.
The pandemic showed that - united under Team Europe initiative - our action can be fast and broad-based, bringing global-scale impact in tackling one of the worst healthcare crisis in the recent history.
We are now teaming up with the European Commission in implementing the ambitious REPowerEU strategy that is going to fast forward decarbonisation of Europe and reduce dependency on Russian fossil fuels.
Outside the EU, the mandate for the EIB to provide loans is agreed between the European Commission, Parliament and Council.
For that, in May this year we signed a new Guarantee Agreement with the European Commission to support up to €26.7 billion of EIB financial operations worldwide in sectors like clean energy, digital and transport infrastructure, health and education.
More than two thirds of this guarantee cover is planned for investments in Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries.
Following this aspiration, this year we launched a dedicated branch EIB Global for operations outside the EU. The EIB Global is a dedicated arm which includes a shift in our operating model, notably with a reinforcement of our local presence.
For the Western Balkans, this means more resources for financing and grants, experts on the ground fully dedicated to local projects and more partnerships together with the European Commission.
This has already helped increase our support for the key education, transport and environment protection projects in the region. For example, we have allocated two technical assistance grants to Kosovo in 2022 for the expansion of the district heating system in Priština and improving capacities of public universities.
Along with addressing the current crises, we have diligently continued to encourage climate, innovation/digitalization, SMEs and sustainability, which are at the heart of the EIB strategy. Green and digital transition and innovation are key drivers to have smart cities. Accelerating these initiatives will lead to more resilient and sustainable economies.
We need also to ensure just transition for all by coupling up climate objectives with positive socio-economic outcomes, preventing job losses and negative impacts on most vulnerable communities. This will be done through financing, policy engagement, technical advice and knowledge sharing. Such is the case, for example, with the rehabilitation of urban transport project in Sarajevo that is going to improve the impact on the environment, the quality of public transport and everyday life for people in Sarajevo.
The public sector and SMEs in particular will also need strategic support to increase their energy efficiency and green practices, which are still not sufficiently adopted among companies in the region. Analyses show that as much as 60% of total energy savings could be achieved in the less energy-intensive sectors.
Targeted policy measures, together with increasing capacities and access to finance are the right way forward in tackling challenges. Companies and public sector alike need massive financing support to become greener, more digitalised and innovative.
To help mobilise more funds and expertise to meet all current and future challenges in our cities, we see partnerships are the right way forward. In that regard, facilitating the public-private partnerships through technical support to get the projects off the ground will also be one of our priorities. They can contribute to the development of public infrastructure and services, as well as facilitate SMEs’ access to finance for investments in digital and green transition areas, sustainable cities and human development. They can also help bridging the current fiscal gaps for the key infrastructure and private sector projects.
The already mentioned challenges also require innovative financial instruments. The EIB has introduced innovative credit lines with social and climate component to help companies move forward with climate and energy efficient projects, and expand their workforce by employing people from vulnerable social groups.
Speaking about partnerships and innovative financing I would like to mention also as an example the EU for the Green Agenda in Serbia initiative – a flagship initiative implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the financial support of the European Union and in partnership with Serbia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, EIB Global, the Swedish embassy and the government of Switzerland. 83 innovative environmentally friendly plans aiming to accelerate the green transformation, climate action and job creation have been selected to receive technical and financial implementation support under. The proposed ideas provide new or improved business models and technologies that will lead to more efficient use of resources and the reduction and reuse of waste. Their aim is to address specific climate challenges, such as increasing the share of renewable energy sources, improving air quality, and restoring forest ecosystems and green urban areas.
In conclusion, I assure you that the EIB Group, together with the European Commission and other local partners, can play a decisive role in supporting you in developing smart cities and implementing your projects.
Today with you in Prague are a few colleagues who will share more insights how we can cooperate. We have a regional representation in Belgrade, local representatives in Skopje, Sarajevo and Tirana and all of them would be glad to discuss with you possibilities for supporting you with all available advisory and financial support.