European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) president Suma Chakrabarti has urged investors to consider the Western Balkans’ because of the region’s "great potential".
Speaking at the EBRD’s second Western Balkans summit in London on February 22, Chakrabarti cited the region’s stable macroeconomic climate, favourable tax regime, competitive labour force, and the clear prospect of integration into the European Union, itself a key stabilising factor and a significant influence promoting reforms. An additional reason is the region’s well educated, highly skilled workforce.
However, biggest obstacle to investment is the financing gap, Chakrabarti said.
“We need, in the best interests of the Western Balkans, to engage with the growing number of Chinese and other non-European investors in the region, as well as with new development banks…So I am particularly heartened to hear that we have representatives of some major Chinese companies in the audience with us today,” Chakrabarti said in his opening remarks to the summit.
Investment on its own is not the whole story as there is a reform momentum across the region, he added. This includes Montenegro’s progress towards the EU, Serbia’s ambitious programme of privatisation and restructuring of its public companies, Albania’s comprehensive modernisation programme and Bosnia & Herzegovina, which has started implementing the Reform Agenda prepared with the help of the EC and IFIs.
The EBRD is one of the largest investors in the Western Balkans and last year alone it invested around €1bn in various projects in areas including energy efficiency, infrastructure, financial institutions and agribusiness.
Among those projects was the rehabilitation of the Route 10 Railway, the upgrading of the line which runs through Kosovo and connects with Macedonia, a project the EBRD worked on closely with the European Investment Bank (EIB).
“Together with KfW, we also approved and signed funding for the Macedonian-Albanian electricity transmission line, part of wider efforts to establish an East-West electricity corridor connecting Sofia, Skopje, Tirana, Podgorica and Italy. We are looking into opportunities to finance power interconnectors between other countries in the region, such as Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia,” Chakrabarti said.
“We are working, together with the EIB, on the feasibility study for the Highway Nis-Pristina-Durres – or, as Serbia’s prime minister Aleksandar Vucic calls it – the “Peace Highway,” he added.
According to the EBRD’s press release, the summit aims to highlight investment and business opportunities in the region and promote the inflow of foreign direct investment and cross-border projects. Participants included government officials, policy-makers, experts as well as leading domestic and international business representatives.
The event has proved very popular with the public and is being attended by more than 300 guests. The first Western Balkans summit was held two years ago in February 2014.
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