The FINANCIAL — The President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Sir Suma Chakrabarti, visited Montenegro on 27-28 July 2016 as part of a wider regional tour of the Western Balkans. This followed visits earlier in the week to Kosovo (25 July) and Albania (26 July). He is also expected to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia later in the summer.
In Montenegro, he met President Filip Vujanovic, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and government ministers as well as representatives from the business and diplomatic communities.
President Chakrabarti said: “Montenegro plays a special role in the Western Balkans and it has a special place within the EBRD as a whole, for it is in Montenegro that we have our highest per capita investment. The country leads in the Western Balkans in terms of EU approximation and the EBRD stands ready to help Montenegro progress even further along this path in order to accelerate reforms.”
In his discussions with the Prime Minister, President Chakrabarti said he especially appreciated the role Mr Djukanovic had played in the dialogue among the six Western Balkans Prime Ministers brought together under a format initiated by the EBRD.
President Chakrabarti also said the Bank remained committed to promoting regional integration, including through the Western Balkans Investment Summits organised at the EBRD’s headquarters in London.
Prime Minister Djukanovic paid tribute to the EBRD for its role in launching and sustaining this regional dialogue. He was glad that this process – which has subsequently become known as the Berlin Process following a meeting of Western Balkans heads of state and government in the German capital in 2014 – was continuing with the active involvement of the European Union (EU), other international financial institutions and key European capitals.
As part of Montenegro’s progress towards EU integration, the EBRD’s support was welcome in helping local companies increase quality standards to become more competitive in the local market and ultimately to increase exports to the EU, Prime Minister Djukanovic added.
Referring to the importance of the country and the region for the EBRD, President Chakrabarti said: “When I was elected EBRD President in 2012, I said to you and to other leaders that the Western Balkans had to become a higher priority for the EBRD and it did. There is huge amount to celebrate in our cooperation, which can serve as a model for the region. I am very pleased to see economic growth coming back to Montenegro.”
He added that, going forward, the EBRD would welcome renewed impetus in the process of privatisation in Montenegro, according to EBRD.
In his meeting with President Vujanovic, President Chakrabarti said Montenegro’s active engagement was crucial for the process of regional cooperation and European approximation in the Western Balkans.
President Chakrabarti said the last three years had been very productive for the Bank in Montenegro, accounting for around half of the total €530 million of investments in the country since it started work there. The Bank had provided know-how and expertise to over 550 Montenegrin small and medium-sized businesses, many of them women-led.
President Vujanovic thanked the EBRD for supporting the Montenegrin economy over the years, especially in energy and transport infrastructure. He invited the EBRD to consider projects aimed at overcoming regional disparities between the country’s less developed north and more prosperous south.
On Thursday 28 July, President Chakrabarti visited Voli, the leading retailer in Montenegro and a long-standing EBRD client, where the Bank has recently taken a 10 per cent equity stake. Voli will use this equity financing to build a modern distribution centre.
He concluded the visit by meeting the management of the Coordinated Auction Office in South East Europe (SEECAO), a system which allocates the region’s scarce electricity transmission capacity through a single auction process. The EBRD provided technical cooperation grants to establish this system, which is widely used elsewhere in Europe, for seven countries including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro and Turkey. Macedonia has recently signed an accession agreement. The SEECAO is in discussion with other countries in the region about joining the system.