Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova gave a speech at the EU Western Balkans Summit in Tirana
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Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very pleased to be in Tirana today to pledge - or rather re-pledge - the EIB Group’s firm support for the Western Balkans.
In the same way as we mobilised €1.7 billion of finance to combat the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will provide support for your urgent short-term needs stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
At the same time, we will continue and intensify the wider range of socio-economic support required to underpin your accession process to the EU.
We are fully aligned with the impressive Energy Package outlined by President Von der Leyen today that demonstrates the EU’s solidarity. As the EU bank, we look forward to playing a key role alongside our Team Europe partners in implementing it.
As the EU Climate Bank, the EIB is already working across the region on the deployment of clean energy, particularly wind and solar - sectors with a lot of potential in this part of the world. Let me just mention the wind farm in Vlasic that is under preparation and the investment in solar energy in Obiliq. We are also looking at the rehabilitation of hydro power plants.
We will continue to invest in electricity networks, upgrade and expand storage infrastructure that will help boost energy security.
We will also be actively assisting the private sector to finance energy efficiency measures and investments to expedite the green transition.
Our subsidiary the European Investment Fund just launched the “Western Balkans EDIFI Guarantee 4 SME Resilience”. We will also offer a number of other SME facilities - thanks to some of the proposals approved at the WBIF Strategic Board meeting yesterday.
We are happy to see that the Energy Package contains assistance to support the various governments to improve the policy, legislative and institutional environment for the energy sector. Improvements in these areas will have a positive impact on the speed at which the EIB and our fellow IFIs can roll out investments in infrastructure or provide financing to the private sector.
Expediting the reforms needed will improve the capacity to reap the maximum benefits of these investments for citizens and businesses.
We are very conscious that diversifying the energy mix is not an easy process and there can be large economic and social costs. EIB hopes to bring its experience gained in similar transition regions in the EU to the benefit of the Western Balkans ensuring that you can also reap the opportunities that are also part of this transition. As we announced at COP27, the EIB is committed to stepping up its support for those most affected by the low-carbon transition including through “Just Energy Transition Partnership” initiatives.
Looking beyond the energy sector, EIB Global continues to advance on the Economic and Investment Plan that is anchoring strategic investments critical to a robust economic foundation in the region. We are focusing on connectivity, green transition, the digital agenda and support for education and health.
We will intensify further our comprehensive mix of lending, blending and advisory services to support your efforts in both the public and private sector, including more EIB experts on the ground.
We are already turning these intentions into tangible financing.
Two weeks ago, I was in Skopje to sign an investment of €50 million to construct and refurbish water supply, wastewater and flood protection infrastructure, available to the country’s 80 municipalities.
In November, the EIB Board that comprises the 27 EU Member States represented here today, approved a €1.1 billion investment into the Corridor X railway line in Serbia - a flagship investment under the Economic and Investment Plan and part of the EU’s Global Gateway initiative. It is also a great example of Team Europe at work as we are co-financing with EBRD and the EC is contributing much needed grants. I hope to travel to Belgrade to sign the contracts with our Serbian counterparts as soon as possible.
Our future support to the region is enabled by the EU’s EFSD Plus and we are devoting substantial efforts and resources to meet the EU’s policy goals in this region using it.
We are committed to the Team Europe approach – exemplified by the Western Balkans Investment Framework. This is also helping us to move ahead with important connectivity projects in railways in North Macedonia and investments in the education sector in Montenegro.
Here in Albania, we are working on an urban development project that will contribute to the transformation of Tirana into a green and sustainable city. We also look forward to working with the government, the EC and our colleagues in EBRD on important railway investments.
This is just a brief glimpse into our pipeline and we look forward to working with all partners around this table to expedite our joint efforts to boost jobs and growth, to promote regional cooperation and to advance the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU.