Today, the European Commission unveiled a major €3.2 billion investment program to support 21 transport, digital, climate and energy connectivity projects in the Western Balkans. This is the first major set of projects under the EU’s ambitious Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which the Commission adopted in October 2020. The projects are designed to deliver tangible benefits to the six partners in the region.
Over the next few years, the Economic and Investment Plan is expected to mobilize up to €30 billion of investment, in the form of a combination of grants, preferential loans and guarantees. The plan will help bridge the development gap between the European Union and the region and support post-pandemic economic recovery. The plan will also help implement the wider EU Global Gateway Strategy, launched in December 2021.
European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said:With this major investment program, we are accelerating the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans on the ground. We have identified these flagship projects in close collaboration with our partners. Better and more sustainable connections in transport, digital infrastructure and renewable energy will boost the economy, boost the region’s green and digital transition and provide many opportunities for people and businesses in the Western Balkans and across the EU. These investments will also accelerate the region’s integration, in line with its clear European perspective.
Today’s financial envelope includes €1.1 billion in EU grants under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance 2021-2027 (IPA III), additional bilateral contributions from Member States of EU and Norway, and favorable loans from international financial institutions. The €3.2 billion investment envelope is channeled through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), an EU-led multi-donor investment platform and the main financial instrument for the implementation of the economic and investment plan in the areas of public infrastructure and private sector competitiveness.
The projects of this first batch cover the priority sectors of the Plan which are sustainable transport: Construction of major roads and railways in the region, including the Mediterranean, East-West and Rhine-Danube corridors and the railway corridor between Skopje in North Macedonia and the Bulgarian border. These projects will facilitate regional trade, reduce travel times and stimulate sustainable economic growth, bringing great benefits to local citizens and businesses in the region.
Also, clean energy: Development of renewable energy sources with the construction of solar power plants and the Trans-Balkan electricity transmission corridor, which will play a key role in the success of the clean energy transition in the region and contribute to the phasing out of the use coal.
Environment and climate: Construction of sewage treatment plants, which are essential for the green prospects of the region, and will contribute to safeguarding the health and well-being of the inhabitants of the Western Balkans. Also, another priority sector is digital: Development of rural broadband infrastructure to ensure universal access in the Western Balkans. And, the last is human development: Construction of a new building of a children’s university hospital in order to increase its capacity and to include new diagnostic and treatment technologies.
Implementation will begin shortly after the signing of agreements with international financial institutions, expected in 2022 and 2023.
The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans aims to boost long-term recovery, accelerate a green and digital transition, as well as foster regional cooperation and convergence with the EU. Up to €9 billion in EU grants under IPA III are allocated to the plan, which will leverage an additional €20 billion in investment.
The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) is a joint financial platform of the European Commission, financial organisations, EU Member States and Norway aimed at strengthening cooperation in public sector investments and private sector for the socio-economic development of the region and to contribute to European integration. of the Western Balkans. The WBIF is the main financial vehicle for the implementation of the EU’s ambitious economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans’ policy priorities and flagship investments.
Global Gateway is the EU’s contribution to closing the global investment gap in the world for sustainable development. With this strategy, the EU reinforces its offer to its partners with major investments in the development of infrastructures throughout the world. Over the next seven years, the EU and its Member States will mobilize up to €300 billion in public and private investment in digital, climate and energy, transport, health, education and research. The Global Gateway will deliver high-quality and sustainable projects, taking into account the needs of partner countries and ensuring lasting benefits for local communities.