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The European Investment Bank (EIB) and UniCredit Bank Srbija A.D. (UCBS) have signed the first €15 million tranche of an innovative €30 million impact finance loan to help Serbian small, medium and mid-cap companies to improve the social impact of their

businesses in areas such as gender equality, youth employment and social inclusion.

The loan from the EU bank is being complemented by a €4 million grant provided under the EIB’s Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI). The grant will reward companies that meet specific targets to foster women’s employment and entrepreneurship, youth employment and professional development as well as the social inclusion of underserved or vulnerable demographic groups (e.g. minorities, people with disabilities, refugees, etc.) who often face additional barriers to entry in the job market. Under the scheme, a set of social impact goals will be agreed with the companies that borrow the EIB funds through UCBS and a financial reward will be distributed to those who meet such targets, encouraging them to include and support employees from more vulnerable groups and ensure their training and long-term retention.

This is the first EIB private sector loan under the ERI in the Western Balkans, contributing to the overarching objectives of promoting sustainable growth and supporting economic resilience. The EIB will also provide technical support for the preparation and implementation of the projects, helping to achieve the intended social impact objectives.

On this occasion, President of the EIB Werner Hoyer stated: “We are delighted to support the introduction of innovative financial mechanisms in Serbia to support faster economic development in the country. This loan marks the beginning of a new way of lending to SMEs with far-reaching benefits for social development and the inclusion of people from the most vulnerable groups in the job market. It awards those SMEs who want to grow in a sustainable and inclusive way and allows even more people to benefit from economic development. This is a new chapter in our decades-long support for SMEs, economic and social growth, and the regional and EU integration of Serbia, and is a reaffirmation of our commitment to help Serbia develop faster.

This operation, focusing on the private sector, will generate superior developmental impact than conventional operations. This will be possible through the combination of ERI funds, European Commission support and the EIB funds and expertise in this sector. This deal reaffirms our commitment to the Western Balkans as well as our leading financier role within Team Europe. It will be a blueprint for future operations led by our ambitions in the impact finance business.

In the last 10 years alone (2009-2019), the EIB has invested €1.87 billion into the private sector in Serbia, supporting over 11 000 companies and retaining over 320 000 jobs.