New investments approved under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans
The WBIF Operational Board endorsed on 8 December a €680 million investment package to support five flagship investments in rail transport and renewable energy in the Western Balkans. The package includes €253.2 million in EU grants from IPA III, favourable loans from international financing institutions, and contributions from the Western Balkans.
The five new projects approved cover the following two priority sectors:
Sustainable transport: reconstruction of Corridor VIII railway line in Albania and rehabilitation of Bar – Vrbnica railway line in Montenegro. These projects will contribute to upgrade the Western Balkans’ railway transport to TEN-T standards and ensure integration with the EU railway network.
Clean energy: construction of two wind farms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and deployment of a solar photovoltaic power plant in Albania. These projects support the transition to low-carbon economies, and foster sustainable development in the region.
At the Operational Board meeting, Hungary pledged a new €500,000 contribution to the WBIF Joint Fund, thus becoming a Bilateral Donor. Further contributions were announced by Norway, France, Germany and Austria, for a total of around €9.5 million.
Overview of the endorsed flagship investments here
The WBIF Operational Board was preceded by the WBIF Strategic Board, bringing together - in person and online - more than 180 representatives: WBIF members (EU Member States, Norway, and International Financial Institutions) and observers (European Parliament, Western Balkan partners, Transport Community and Energy Community Secretariats, and WB6 Chamber Investment Forum). The meeting was co-chaired by Gert Jan Koopman, Director-General DG NEAR, European Commission, and Anders Eide, Ambassador of Norway to the EU, representing the WBIF Bilateral Donors. During the meeting, the European Commission presented the new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, took stock of the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan, and approved the WBIF Annual Progress Report for 2022.
WBIF Flagship investments Overview, December 2023 (c) WBIF
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “In an increasingly fragmented world, we need an even stronger and united community of values. Enlargement is key to achieve this. While we continue to work together on accession, we need to take decisive actions to bring the Western Balkans closer to our economy. With the projects worth €680 million just approved, we are accelerating our shared journey towards a green and better-connected future by upgrading transport links and harnessing renewable energy. Together, we are laying the foundations for sustainable growth and closer integration, demonstrating once again our strong commitment to the region's prosperity and its path towards EU membership.”
EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said: “The European Union is the most significant donor and investor in the Western Balkans, and today’s €680 million financial package is another respectable testimony of this. With these five investment projects, we are closer to fully connecting and integrating the Western Balkans into our transport and energy networks. Moreover, with these development projects, we are investing to provide the region with more innovative, cleaner, and more secure economic solutions to benefit the citizens and businesses alike.”
More information in the European Commission press release here
WBIF Strategic and Operation Board Meeting participants, Brussels, 8 December 2023 (Photo gallery)
The Strategic and Operational Boards are key bodies in WBIF governance. The Strategic Board advises the European Commission on the strategic orientations of the WBIF and supports overall decision-making on WBIF investments. The Operational Board for Blending emits an opinion on public and private sectors blending operations. They meet at least twice a year, co-chaired by the European Commission and one of the bilateral donors rotating annually. The co-chair for 2023 is Norway.
Endorsed flagships booklet (December 2023) here
WBIF Annual Progress Report here
Event photo gallery here