The European Investment Bank (EIB) Group has intensified its funding of small and medium-sized businesses in the Western Balkans.
At the Western Balkans Summit held in Trieste, Italy on Friday, the European Investment Fund (EIF) agreed to provide additional funding for the Western Balkans Enterprise Development Innovation Facility (WBEDIF).
The EIF said it would inject €20m (£22.6m) for Serbian SMEs, and €10m to support youth unemployment in the Western Balkans region. Since 2006, the EIB Group has signed €6.4bn in loans for the region.
The EIB Group representatives signed €70m worth of agreements across the region, including €50m for Serbia through the Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI) which was first launched in 2016. The EIF also signed a commitment with Ascendant Buy-Out Fund, a private equity fund with a target of €100m focusing on lower midmarket companies in the region.
EIF chief executive, Pier Luigi Gilibert, said: “EIF is pleased to be contributing to the development of private equity infrastructure in the Western Balkans region by supporting a new independent manager in this underserved market.”
The agreement came less than two weeks after the EIB launched a funding scheme to target the non-EU countries of Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. The signing of the EU4Business initiative prompted Moldova’s president Igor Dodon to say – through Facebook – that it must not harm the country’s relationship with Russia.
At the summit, the EIB Group signed a memorandum of understanding to signal their intention to strengthen ties with the Kosovan government.
EIB president Werner Hoyer said: “In these times of economic and social challenges, the EIB is committed to build resilience, to support investments and increase financing needed in the Western Balkan.
“Enabling and ensuring investment of SMEs is also a key part of our activity: in the last five years we financed 4,888 SMEs and midcaps with a total investment of €1.35 billion”.