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The European Investment Bank (EIB), as one of the leading international financiers in the Western Balkans, has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the region’s path towards the European Union. Since 2007, the EIB has signed EUR 7.5 billion of loans for projects in the Western Balkans. So far this year, the EIB has

signed loans worth more than half a billion euros for the region.

An EIB Group delegation led by President Werner Hoyer participated today in the Western Balkans Summit in Sofia (Bulgaria) hosted by Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria. The event brought together government leaders from EU Member States and Western Balkans countries. The summit was chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. Also attending were Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission; Federica Mogherini, the head of EU foreign policy; and Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for Enlargement. 

The summit focused on connectivity issues in transport, energy and digital infrastructure, including mobility and inclusion. The goal is to build stronger connections within the Western Balkans and with the EU to tackle common challenges in security, migration and geopolitics. The EIB is already strongly committed in all these fields, with a special focus on the migration crisis. The EIB launched the Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI) in 2016 in response to the migration crisis by offering extra support for projects that fill gaps in social and economic infrastructure, foster private sector growth and create jobs. This initiative is the Bank’s main tool to address the root causes of migration and forced displacement. Through the initiative, the EIB has already offered nearly EUR 700 million in financing in the Western Balkans, and the Bank will soon strengthen its local presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. EIB financing and assistance improves the economic resilience of the whole region.

“The EIB Group has been active in the Western Balkans for over four decades, and since 2007 it has provided finance worth EUR 7.5 billion for projects in the region,” said EIB President Werner Hoyer. “This reflects our strong commitment to upgrading key connectivity infrastructure and helping the private sector create jobs. The guarantee agreements signed today with banks in the region demonstrate our strong support for entrepreneurship and innovation. Our work improves people’s lives all across the Western Balkans.”

“In these times of rising economic and social challenges, the EIB will intensify its investment and financing in the Western Balkans through the Economic Resilience Initiative and other programmes,” President Hoyer added. “The EIB Group will also continue to address these issues by financing projects on the Connectivity Agenda. Transport infrastructure is key to economic growth and competitiveness, because it enables people and goods to move more freely. Better mobility achieves social cohesion, economic growth and employment.

At the summit, the Republic of Serbia and the EIB signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the appraisal of EUR 1 billion in investments in Serbia. EIB President Hoyer, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and President of EU Commission Juncker, President of the European Council Tusk, Bulgarian Prime minister Boyko Borissovattended the signing ceremony. This confirms the EIB Group’s support for key connectivity infrastructure, such as the Highway of Peace connecting Serbia, Kosovo* and Albania, the digitalisation of Serbian schools, local and rural development, energy safety and urban transport.

In addition, the European Investment Fund (EIF, part of the EIB Group) signed guarantee agreements for a total amount of EUR 180 million with Crédit Agricole Banka Srbija AD Novi Sad (CAS) and UniCredit Bank Serbia to support Serbian SMEs. The CAS agreement, providing EUR 50 million to innovative SMEs and mid-caps, was signed under the European Commission’s InnovFin initiative, backed by the EU's research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. Under this agreement, CAS will be incentivised to provide EUR 50 million of loans to 120 innovative SMEs and small mid-caps on more favourable terms. The second transaction, which brings an additional EUR 130 million of loans to 3 500 SMEs, is an increase of the existing COSME LGF agreement with UniCredit Bank Serbia.