DIPLOMATIC ECONOMY

EBRD, EU To Increase Finance For SMEs In Western Balkans

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By Volker Ahlemeyer

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) are increasing their support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Western Balkans with the provision of additional financing, following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bank will provide up to €70 million(US$79.07million) in new credit lines to partner financial institutions for on-lending to local businesses in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The EU is complementing these funds with €15 million to identify and verify the best available equipment and technologies to ensure that SMEs increase their competitiveness and support the shift towards a green economy.

The countries of the Western Balkans have responded to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic with strict public health measures which have had a severe economic impact. The countries are also suffering from a global economic downturn and reduced demand for their products.

The EBRD and the EU through Team Europe support SMEs in their ambition to become more competitive and find innovative solutions to face the new challenges. The funds will ensure that vital businesses continue to have adequate access to finance, can meet high product standards and are well positioned to take advantage of export opportunities offered to them in the region and on the European market.

“We are strongly committed to supporting businesses during these difficult times,” says EBRD Vice President, Policy and Partnerships, Pierre Heilbronn. “Our additional funds will lend support to their recovery, growth and getting ready for the future. This engagement is also testimony to our strong partnership and cooperation with the EU in the Western Balkans.”

European Union Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi said: “Small and medium-sized enterprises are vital for the Western Balkan economies and have been particularly hit by this crisis. That is why, building on our longstanding cooperation with the ERBD in the region, we are increasing our support to SMEs – not only to keep businesses afloat, but also to strengthen their resilience and sow the seeds for a sustainable recovery.”

The EBRD is one of the largest institutional investors in the Western Balkans. To date, it has invested over €13 billion in more than 700 projects, including in key infrastructure, the SME segments and the green economy.

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