The FINANCIAL — EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti visited Kosovo on 25 July 2016, at the start of a wider regional tour of the Western Balkans. On 26 July he is visiting Albania, and on 27-28 July he will visit Montenegro. Later in the summer, he is expected to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
The EBRD President met the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, and re-affirmed the EBRD’s commitment to the process of regional integration among the six Western Balkans countries, which was launched at the EBRD with President Thaci’s participation in 2014.
President Chakrabarti expressed satisfaction with the EBRD’s cooperation with Kosovo and the progress the country has achieved since it became a full EBRD country of operations in 2012.
President Thaci expressed his full support for EBRD operations in Kosovo and described the EBRD’s contribution to the Kosovo economy as unique and irreplaceable, according to EBRD.
The two presidents discussed the upcoming EBRD country strategy for Kosovo for the period until 2020, which is scheduled to be approved in November this year.
Pending public consultation and approval by the Board of Directors, the strategy is expected to focus on the competitiveness of the private sector, energy security and sustainability, and connectivity and regional integration. The EBRD would also promote inclusive growth in Kosovo, with a focus on integrating young people and women into the wider economy.
President Chakrabarti said: “The EBRD as a development bank and I as its President are committed to supporting all Western Balkans countries, including Kosovo, both in regional integration and on their European path. We started an investment and policy-focused dialogue between the region’s leaders two years ago at the EBRD’s inaugural Western Balkans summit, and I am proud to see that the process of regional cooperation in this new format has gained momentum, under the leadership of the EU. The EBRD welcomes the Kosovo authorities’ active participation in regional cooperation.”
Holger Muent, the EBRD Director for Western Balkans, updated President Thaci on EBRD efforts to offer funds to private sector small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) via local partner banks, and on potential infrastructure projects, including key railway and motorway sections.
The EBRD Head of Office in Kosovo, Elena Petrovska, said that the Bank was working on innovative projects for the local, private sector and successfully implementing products such as the Women in Business programme and the Kosovo Sustainable Energy Programme (KoSEP).
The EBRD President also met Minister of Finance Avdullah Hoti, who represents Kosovo on the EBRD’s Board of Governors, and the Minister of Infrastructure, Lutfi Zharku.
They discussed significant progress in the World Bank’s Doing Business rating and further necessary improvements in the investment climate.
Sir Suma praised the practice of prioritising strategic infrastructure investments which will potentially be supported by international financial institutions. They also reflected on EBRD financing for new public buses in Pristina which are scheduled to go into operation in the national capital in the coming months.
During the visit, Sir Suma Chakrabarti signed two agreements with local banks, both aimed at helping local private sector businesses. One agreement, providing up to €5 million for trade finance, was signed with NLB Pristina, a member of the Slovenian group NLB, and a new local partner bank for the EBRD in Kosovo. Joining the EBRD’s Trade Facilitation Programme will enable NLB Pristina to help its SME and corporate clients trade across borders.
The second agreement, a credit line of €1 million, was provided to BPB, one of the two majority locally owned banks in Kosovo, where the EBRD is also a minority shareholder. The financing forms part of the Sustainable Energy Programme, under which local banks channel EBRD funds to local SMEs and households for energy efficiency and small-scale renewable energy projects.
The EBRD President also met representatives of the diplomatic and international development communities in Pristina and discussed cooperation on strategic projects. He stressed that the EBRD remained committed to Kosovo’s EU approximation process, and ready to help the country undertake the significant structural reforms needed on this path.
Including projects signed by the President during the visit, the EBRD has invested €204 million in 50 projects in Kosovo.