It is no secret that the Western Balkans want to join the European Union. For several years now, its six countries – Albania, the former Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – have been making major efforts to develop their infrastructure. France, in partnership with other EU countries, has a leading role to play in this transition.
Pooling European resources for the Balkans
The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) was set up by the European Commission in 2009, with support from several development banks. The objective: pool resources in the form of grants, loans and technical assistance to support the development of the Western Balkans.
Building roads, improving health services, ensuring the reliability of water and energy resources… Over 150 projects are benefiting millions of people in the region. In January 2018, EUR 772m of grants had been allocated.The European Commission puts its contribution to WBIF at EUR 1bn for 2015-2020. This contribution is expected to create 45,000 jobs, upgrade rail transport and information systems, improve road security, deploy broadband and develop models of smart cities in the Balkans.
The Western Balkans Investment Framework is a tangible demonstration of this joint effort to support the integration and the economic recovery of the region.
By joining WBIF, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has already provided EUR 1.1m of grants to the bilateral donors’ joint fund in 2018. AFD will be furthering its support in the coming years. In this respect, it is a member of all the bodies of the WBIF instruments, meaning it can contribute all its experience to them.
AFD’s expertise put to use in new sectors of operation
Until now, WBIF mainly operated in the fields of transport and energy. These are particularly important issues for the European Commission and are in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) n° 9. The Commission now wishes to develop WBIF’s operations by targeting the fields of digital technologies, the environment, the private sector and social sectors.
AFD’s expertise in these thematic areas will provide high added value for the economic and social development of the region. It will allow a number of new projects to rapidly come into being.
Deploying broadband throughout the region to promote digital inclusion, creating new water supply, wastewater management and flood prevention systems to strengthen adaptation to climate change, disseminating sustainable energy solutions to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving access to sources of financing for small and medium-sized enterprises… All these projects will bring the Western Balkans closer to its possible integration into the European Union.
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