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EIB Global Boosts Western Balkans with Record €1.2 Billion Investment

In an unprecedented move, EIB Global, the European Investment Bank's arm for operations outside the EU, has poured a staggering €1.2 billion into the Western Balkans in 2023, marking a significant uptick from the previous year by €365 million

This infusion of capital is earmarked for a slew of sustainable and energy transition projects, aimed squarely at bolstering the region’s alignment with the EU, while enhancing economic stability, climate resilience, and connectivity.

Kyriacos Kakouris, the EIB Vice-President overseeing the region, highlighted the strategic deployment of funds under the aegis of the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan and the Global Gateway initiative. These funds are designated to mend the infrastructural chasms and elevate living standards across the Balkans. “In a concerted effort with the European Commission, we are thrilled to announce a hefty €475 million in grants funnelled through the Western Balkans Investment Framework and the EIB’s own Economic Resilience Initiative,” Kakouris stated.

A lion’s share of the new funds, approximately 58% or €693 million, is allocated to revamp the region’s transportation network, with a focus on safer, more sustainable rail links in Serbia (Belgrade-Niš) and North Macedonia (Kriva Palanka to the Bulgarian border). Additional allocations are set for the modernization of Sarajevo’s urban transport and a road safety enhancement project in Serbia. Notably, €275 million, constituting 23% of the total 2023 financing, is dedicated to empowering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Western Balkans, with the remainder supporting pivotal sectors like energy, water, healthcare, and education.

Vice-President Kakouris also underscored the value of Team Europe partnerships, which amplify the impact of advisory and financial resources for the benefit of the region’s populace. He expressed eagerness for the European Commission’s forthcoming New Growth Plan, anticipated to fast-track critical reforms, propel economic prosperity, and reinforce regional initiatives like the Common Regional Market.

Beyond financial backing, the EIB has extended technical advisory services for pivotal projects, including a water distribution venture in Tirana and a climate action credit line for North Macedonian SMEs. With the EU-financed JASPERS programme set to triple the technical advisory capacity for the Western Balkans, a promising €20 million budget is earmarked for the next six years.

In alignment with its climate objectives, the EIB has dedicated 61% of its 2023 projects in the Western Balkans to climate action and environmental sustainability. Initiatives span renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy infrastructure, reflecting the bank’s commitment to a green transition. At the COP28 climate conference, EIB Global unveiled a novel strategy to bolster global financing and advisory services for a just transition, with initial focus areas including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

EIB Global’s collaboration with commercial banks and national development institutions, like the Development Bank of North Macedonia, has facilitated €275 million in affordable credit for SMEs, catalyzing expansion, job creation, and enhanced social and climate impact. The bank’s innovative impact finance credit line, launched in 2020, was lauded with the prestigious Uxolo Award in 2023, recognizing its support for youth employment, gender equality, and inclusive practices.

The European Investment Fund (EIF), an integral part of the EIB Group, has commenced the implementation of the WB EDIF Guarantee Facility for SME Resilience, poised to unlock approximately €700 million for regional SMEs. To date, the EIB Group’s investment in the Western Balkans’ private sector exceeds €6 billion, underscoring its pivotal role in the region’s economic and environmental progression.

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