Western Balkans Investment Summit 2024

Western Balkans Investment Summit 2024
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) yesterday welcomed the heads of government of AlbaniaBosnia and HerzegovinaKosovoMontenegroNorth Macedonia and Serbia to its Western Balkans Investment Summit 2024 held at its headquarters in London.

The event brought together six Western Balkans prime ministers and international investors with the aim of highlighting potential investment and business opportunities in the region, and to promote regional cross-border projects.

The opening speeches and the interactive session with prime ministers can be viewed on the EBRD websiteLinkedIn and YouTube. Photographs from the event are available on Flickr.

The event was opened by EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso, who in her speech hailed the region’s progress in the last decade, but cautioned of the need to speed up convergence with the EU living standards. “As the largest [international financial institution] in the region, we have invested more than €18 billion there – and a record €1.63 billion last year,” she said, adding that the Bank intended to continue scaling up its activities in the Western Balkans “to help countries to deliver on reforms and investments, particularly in the areas of green transition, skills and digitalisation”.

The President of the European Council Charles Michel said: “In the EU we sincerely appreciate the work of the EBRD in your region to support the real economy and to advance reforms, and your role in helping to push forward regional integration and cooperation.”

The EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi added that the EU was relying on its Western Balkans partners “to show strong political commitment and […] to implement the strongly needed essential reforms. In this work, our cooperation with the EBRD and other IFIs is key.”

In their speeches and answers to investors’ questions, the heads of government (who spoke in alphabetical order under the Gymnich formula) spoke about the key strengths of their economies and why international investors should go there.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić referred to her country’s robust economic growth figures and its vibrant ICT and services sector. She also highlighted the strength of its workforce and increased investments, not just in education but also in infrastructure, such as railways, roads and renewable energy.

Chair of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Borjana Krišto, highlighted her country’s openness to business and its improved business environment as a result of reforms, favourable legislation and low taxes. She also pointed towards the country’s industrial tradition, natural resources and educated labour force.

For Prime Minister Albin Kurti of Kosovo, the combination of recent economic development, democratic progress and institutional stability makes his country an attractive investment destination. He also pointed to the country’s strong growth figures and improvements in the rule of law.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama highlighted the transformation of his country into a safe and attractive tourist destination. He also explained that all of the country’s energy comes from renewables, but stressed the need to add solar and wind to its hydro-based energy capacity.

Montenegro’s Milojko Spajić emphasised his country’s NATO membership, use of the euro as a national currency, and the country’s low debt-to-GDP ratio and low fiscal deficits. He also spoke of the country’s plans to boost its connectivity through new railways, roads, airports and a deep water port.

For Talat Xhaferi, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, the country’s main pull for investors is its geographical location, which is close to European centres with convenient access to major ports in the region. Mr Xhaferi also spoke about stimulating taxation policy and the country’s non-discriminatory approach to foreign investors, whom he called “our investors”.

On the margins of the Summit, the President of EBRD held bilateral meetings with each of the participating Prime Ministers to take stock of the Bank’s activities in their respective countries and discussed further plans.

Prior to the opening of the Summit, UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Lord Cameron paid a visit to the EBRD to greet the prime ministers and the President of EBRD.

This was the sixth EBRD summit of its kind. The inaugural Western Balkans Summit took place at the EBRD 10 years ago, in February 2014, and brought together for the first time all the region’s heads of governments.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who called himself a “veteran” as he participated in all six Western Balkans Summits in EBRD, stressed their importance not only for promoting the region as investment destination but also for strengthening regional stability, pointing out the tangible progress in regional cooperation since 2014.

The Western Balkans is a priority region for the EBRD. Today, the Bank remains one of the largest institutional investors there with more than €18 billion invested to date.