The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Union have announced their increasing support for small and medium enterprises in the Western Balkans.
Support will take the form of additional financing to assist SMEs following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EBRD will provide around EUR 70 million in new credit lines to partner financial institutions for lending to local businesses in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The EU will add to these funds with a further EUR 15 million to provide equipment and technology to help SMEs increase competitiveness and support the shift towards a green economy.
Following the start of the pandemic, the Western Balkans reacted by enforcing strict public health measures. These have resulted in a severe economic impact, economic downturn and reduced demand for their products.
The funds will ensure that vital SMEs are able to gain adequate access to finance, can meet high product standards and are well-positioned to take advantage of export opportunities throughout the region and beyond.
“We are strongly committed to supporting businesses during these difficult times,” says Pierre Heilbronn, EBRD Vice President, Policy and Partnerships. “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.”
Olivér Várhelyi, European Union Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, 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 long-standing 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.