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Integration key to delivering sustained economic growth in Western Balkans

Sir Suma Chakrabarti (pictured above), the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has used his keynote address at the bank’s annual meeting in Sarajevo to call for more integration in the Western Balkans.

“Greater economic integration in the region is key to reforms that can deliver sustained, inclusive growth in the region,” said Sir Suma. “We see integration as a very powerful instrument for expanding trade in goods and services, increasing cross-border investment and, perhaps most importantly of all, encouraging the exchange of new ideas and innovation. Fundamental to this is the EU approximation process. We are strongly committed to it. We see it as a very important external anchor for reforms.”

“Today would also be a good moment to wish a very happy 10th birthday to the Western Balkans Investment Fund, a unique partnership of the region’s governments, the European Commission, bilateral donors and multilateral development banks such as ourselves,” added Sir Suma, who also highlighted the spirit of rapprochement symbolised by the prime ministers of North Macedonia and Greece, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras:

“Theirs is a moving – and inspiring – example of vision, courage, leadership and willingness to compromise in the interests of their countries, the region and us all. I would like to pay special tribute to them both today. I also encourage the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to continue their dialogue as a way of moving their countries and the wider region towards a more positive future.”

Addressing the bank’s shareholders the president also outlined plans for the EBRD to make an even greater positive impact in the 38 economies where it invests across three continents.

“This will be a pivotal year for the EBRD – the beginning of a further step change that will require both enhancing the quality of what we do while seeking to increase the quantity of our investments and projects across our regions,” Sir Suma said.

“While we deliver locally, we also think globally – not least through our commitment to invest more than 40 per cent of our ABI in the green economy by the end of 2020 to respond to the defining environmental imperatives of our age. We are well on the way to delivering on that target. We relish the opportunity to raise our game still further – in all our regions.”

Sir Suma noted the EBRD had invested close to 10 billion euros a year over the last three years.

“In 2019 I want the EBRD to break the 10 billion euros investment barrier for the first time in our history,” he said.

Photo: EBRD