By Muhamet Brajshori
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will admit Kosovo to its ranks on December 17th, opening up much needed financial assistance venues to support Kosovo’s troubled economy.
“This bank is a great investor in states experiencing transition and invests in a broad range of areas,” Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said.
Thaci explained Kosovo is particularly interested in investment in sectors of national importance — agriculture, small- and medium-size enterprises and the energy sector.
“I encourage Kosovo businesses to develop good and sustainable projects, and to use the membership to increase business and create new jobs. It is anticipated Kosovo will benefit from dozens of millions of euros under good conditions and for specific projects in the initial membership years,” Thaci said.
It took three years to acquire membership because nearly half of the EBRD members do not recognise Kosovo. However, the bank has been active in Kosovo since 2000 with a cumulative volume of 100 million euros in investments.
The EBRD has invested more than 2.5 billion euros in the Western Balkans, and is increasingly focusing efforts to increase available financing of small- and medium-size enterprises and infrastructure.
Past projects have included financing for Albania to upgrade its power distribution network and road system, and for Bosnia and Herzegovina to reconstruct its telecommunications network and the railway.
“In terms of future investment, there is a clear need for EBRD financing. EBRD is expecting to make at least six to eight investments in 2013 with banks, micro-finance companies and corporations,” Svitlana Pyrkalo, EBRD communication advisor, told SETimes.
Safet Gerxhaliu, executive director of Kosovo’s Chamber of Commerce, told SETimes that Kosovo is taking an important step in the economic transition it faces by getting international financial assistance from EBRD.
“All the states that emerged from the socialist system have benefited from membership in the bank, and Kosovo has great profit opportunities, both economic and political,” Gerxhaliu told SETimes.
Energy efficiency and energy security are key elements in the planned assistance, Gerxhaliu added.
EBRD will launch an energy efficiency framework with several financial institutions in Kosovo in early 2013 with EU support.
Pyrkalo explained the goal is to enhance Kosovo small- and medium-enterprises’ competitiveness and support Kosovo in reducing energy consumption. “Investment in the power sector is a key priority,” Pyrkalo said.
Gerxhaliu said Kosovo is experiencing a decrease of investments and of remittances, and by focusing on agriculture and industry the chances for economic development are bigger.
“Agriculture remains a potential area for development, it can generate positive results, and in addition to production could create new jobs… and above all influence minimising social tensions, so we may have rapid employment, and small investment with multilateral effects,” said Gerxhaliu.
EBRD will also launch a regional Municipal Infrastructure Development Fund in 2013 that will support municipal projects in Kosovo to strengthen infrastructure in the power and municipal services sectors.
Thaci announced the government will create an inter-ministerial committee to ensure businesses and investors have clear information about how the EBRD finances projects.
“[But] it is necessary to establish an agency that would have the sole purpose of taking care of all the details concerning the analysis of all the requirements and scope of the EBRD,” Gerxhaliu said.