Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) Steering Committee Virtual Meeting 09-10 June 2020
The Western Balkans Investment Framework held its 22nd WBIF Steering Committee Meeting on 09 and 10 June. Due to the COVID-19 situation, this meeting was held virtually. Over 150 participants from the Western Balkans beneficiaries, the European Commission, Financial Institutions (EIB, EIF, EBRD, CEB, KfW, WBG and AFD), Bilateral Donors from Member States and Norway, the Energy Community Secretariat (ECS), and the WB Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) attended the two day sessions.
The meeting was co-chaired by Mrs. Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director General, DG NEAR and WBIF Bilateral Donors' representative Ms Elisabeth Gruber, Head of Department for International Financial Institutions, Federal Ministry of Finance, Austria.
Mrs. Mathernová emphasised the importance of the WBIF as key instrument to foster regional cooperation and informed about the EU Global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the context of the 'Team Europe' approach, she gave details of the EU’s unparalleled COVID-19 response package for the Western Balkans, worth overall €3.3 billion. She also outlined the Commmission proposal for the unprecedented long-term budget of €1.1 trillion, and a Next Generation EU package of €750 billion, which will not only support EU Member States but also global partners, including in the Western Balkans.
Mrs. Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director Western Balkans, DG NEAR elaborated on the regional State of Play in the political context and addressed the economic challenges ahead. The Commission will adopt a Communication for an ambitious investment and recovery plan for the region before end-2020.
The International Financial Institutions (EBRD, KfW, IFC and EIF) presented forthcoming EU backed guarantee schemes, all relevant to the COVID-19 situation in the Western Balkans. In addition, the EIB and the CEB informed about their activities and adapted programmes linked to the pandemic.
On the second day, the Energy Community Secretariat presented the status and main challenges the Western Balkan partners face in their efforts to de-carbonise their economies. The WBIF Steering Committee then approved €8.3 million worth in technical assistance grants in digital, environment and social sectors and presented the shortlist of INV Round 05 grant requests, currently totalling €241.2 million, with a blend of connectivity and non-connectivity sectors (including the first social INV project). The WBIF Secretariat informed the participants about ongoing activities including the communication and visibility plans for 2020-2021.
The meeting concluded with a session on private sector development, with main emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic economic impact and plans for recovery. Under the Western Balkans Enterprise and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF), the Steering Committee approved a €60 million EU financed top-up to the EDIF Guarantee Facility II managed by the EIF, and a €15 million top-up for the Regional Competitiveness Programme implemented by EBRD.
The next WBIF SC is planned to take place in Paris on 10-11 December.
More details (agenda, presentations) can be found on the WBIF website in Library.