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Brussels, 25 March 2011

EUR 6 billion for new projects in successful first year of Western Balkans Investment Framework

A European Union initiative to improve coordination of investment in the Western Balkans has resulted in international donors and financial institutions approving support for 73 projects worth over €6 billion in 2010. The first annual report of the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), published today, details the new aid framework's contribution to economic development in the region.

Stating clearly that the future of the Balkans is within the EU, the European Union declared its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries in the 2003 Thessaloniki Declaration. Set up by the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Council of Europe Development Bank, the WBIF created a one-stop shop and has simplified the financing process for beneficiary countries in the Western Balkans.

Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, said: "In its first year, the WBIF has shown us an outstanding example of the role played by the European Union and the enlargement process in the region: helping to build roads, schools, water treatment plants etc.; building confidence and leveraging grants to maximise loan potential through a co-ordinated effort and assisting recovery from the financial and economic crises. I appreciated cooperation with EIB and EBRD".

€139 million in grants has already been allocated under the framework. €116 million of this originates from the European Commission under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, the other €23 million from the international financial institutions – who provide loans to secure investments – and donors. The European Commission currently hosts the WBIF Secretariat and is the largest donor to the WBIF.

The focus of WBIF investment in 2010 was on infrastructure. Nearly half (49%) the projects approved aimed to boost the provision of clean water and sanitation services across the region, followed by support for roads and railways (26%), energy infrastructure (16%) and social infrastructure (9%), such as hospitals and schools.

In 2011, support will be extended to small and medium-sized enterprises, climate change initiatives and other areas. The supported projects are key assets for the candidate countries and potential candidates for EU accession in meeting the accession criteria, while fostering stronger and closer regional development.

19 countries contributed funds towards the WBIF grant facilities in 2010. “We have learned in the WBIF’s first year of existence that genuine progress comes through cooperation. Looking forward, we are convinced that this innovative financial instrument will stand the test of time,” said Pavel Stepanek, co-chair of the WBIF Steering Committee in 2010. Stepanek represented the Czech Republic, one of 19 countries1 that contributed funds in 2010.

1 :

Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, UK

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