In 2023, EIB Global, the financial arm of the European Investment Bank (EIB) for activities outside the European Union, demonstrated a robust commitment to the Western Balkans by investing a remarkable €1.2 billion, surpassing the previous year’s investment by €365 million. These funds were strategically allocated to sustainable and energy transition projects, aligning with the region’s EU accession goals, economic development, climate resilience, and enhanced connectivity.
Kyriacos Kakouris, the EIB Vice-President responsible for the region, highlighted the collaborative efforts with the European Commission, resulting in an impressive €475 million in grants under initiatives such as the Western Balkans Investment Framework and the EIB’s Economic Resilience Initiative.
Notably, 58% (€693 million) of the new funds were directed towards safer and sustainable transportation, with a focus on railway lines in Serbia (Belgrade-Niš) and North Macedonia (Kriva Palanka-Bulgarian border). Additional support was extended for urban transport modernization in Sarajevo and a road rehabilitation and safety project in Serbia. SMEs in the Western Balkans received significant attention, with €275 million (23% of total financing) dedicated to their support. The remaining funds were allocated to critical sectors such as energy, water, healthcare, and education projects.
Vice-President Kakouris emphasized the success of partnerships under Team Europe, leveraging advisory and financial resources for maximum impact. Anticipation was expressed for the implementation of the Commission’s proposed New Growth Plan, facilitating key reforms, economic prosperity, and convergence with the European Union.
Beyond financing, the EIB provided technical advisory support for a water distribution project in Tirana and a climate action credit line for SMEs in North Macedonia. The Bank also committed to triple the technical advisory capacity for the Western Balkans under the EU-financed JASPERS program, with a budget of €20 million for the next six years.
In a noteworthy development, around 61% of projects signed in 2023 directly contributed to climate action and environmental sustainability, aligning with the EIB’s climate goals. The Bank unveiled a new approach at the COP28 climate change conference, emphasizing increased global financing and advisory services for a just transition and resilience. Initial activities in this realm will focus on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
Particularly, the Bank pledged support for a Declaration on the Just Transition Investment Platform for North Macedonia, aiming to mobilize up to €3 billion for the deployment of 1.7 GW in renewable energy capacity by 2030.
In collaboration with commercial banks and national development institutions, EIB Global facilitated €275 million in affordable credit for SMEs, promoting expansion, job creation, and social and climate impact improvement. The Bank also received recognition, winning a Uxolo Award in 2023 for its innovative impact finance credit line launched in 2020 in the Western Balkan countries.
Additionally, the European Investment Fund (EIF), a part of the EIB Group, initiated the implementation of the WB EDIF Guarantee Facility for SME Resilience, with expectations to unlock approximately €700 million for SMEs in the region. Cumulatively, the EIB Group’s investments in the private sector in the Western Balkans have exceeded €6 billion.