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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article11 December 2020Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

EU and WBIF partners step up support to key infrastructure projects in the Western Balkans

The 23rd meeting of the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) Steering Committee took place virtually on 10-11 December, with partners committing to increasing their support for vital infrastructure improvements in the Western Balkans.

Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF)

The 23rd meeting of the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) Steering Committee took place virtually on 10-11 December, with partners committing to increasing their support for vital infrastructure improvements in the Western Balkans.

Over 200 participants, including representatives from the European Commission, Western Balkan partners, financial institutions, bilateral donors, Energy and Transport Community Secretariats, attended the policy and strategy, public and private investments sessions.

Speaking on the first day, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, presented the recently endorsed Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) for the Western Balkans. He outlined its ambition to change the socio-economic landscape of the region over the next five years and emphasised the key role for the WBIF as the main vehicle for the implementation of the Plan.

As a first instalment, the Steering Committee approved €129.3 million in investment grants for key infrastructure projects, complemented by €15.2 million in technical assistance grants.

The WBIF is a joint initiative of the European Commission, the Council of Europe Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, and several bilateral donors. WBIF provides financing and technical assistance to strategic investments in energy, environment, social, transport, and digital infrastructure sectors. It also supports private sector development initiatives.

The meeting was co-chaired by Ms Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director-General in the European Commission’s DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, and Harald Waiglein, Director General for Economic Policy, Financial Markets & Customs Duties in the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance. Rolf Wenzel, Governor of Council of Europe Development Bank, addressed the Steering Committee as hosting partner.

Other speakers included Ms Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans in the European Commission’s, DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, who presented the European Commission perspective on key aspects for success of the Plan and invited representatives of financial institutions to share their views on implementation.

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Background

The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, adopted by the European Commission in October 2020 aims to spur the long-term economic recovery of the region, to support a green and digital transition, to foster regional integration and convergence with the European Union. The plan sets up a substantial investment package in support of sustainable connectivity, human capital, competitiveness and inclusive growth, and the twin green and digital transition. The investment package will be a key driver for facilitating increased public and private investments in the region by European and international financial institutions.

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