EU launches 9 billion economic investment plan for the region

TTimes
By TTimes October 8, 2020 10:57

EU launches 9 billion economic investment plan for the region

Alongside presenting the enlargement package this year, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, mobilizing 9 billion euro directly and offering additional guarantees for further investment.

The plan aims to spur the long-term economic recovery of the region, support a green and digital transition, foster regional integration and convergence with the European Union.

Presenting the new Plan, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, commented that the funding would primarily help investment flagships in the areas of transport, energy, green and digital transition, to create sustainable growth and jobs. “The Plan also offers a path for a successful regional economic integration to help accelerate convergence with the EU and close the development gap between our regions, ultimately speeding up the process of EU integration. This plan should help to transform the Western Balkans into one of the most attractive regions for investments in the world. Implementation of course will need to go hand in hand with reforms,”-Varhelyi stressed.

The Plan identifies ten investment flagships to support major road and railway connections in the region, renewable energy and the transition from coal, renovation of public and private buildings to increase the energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, waste and wastewater management infrastructure, as well as the roll out of broadband infrastructure. Other flagships include increased investments in the private sector to boost competitiveness and innovation, in particular of small and medium sized companies and a Youth Guarantee.

Out of the 10, Albania is mentioned in the sectors of infrastructure with the potential development of north-south routes, such as the coastal highways, as well as for the energy sector, completing the Fier-Vlora gas pipeline (included in the TAP project) and renovation of Fierza HPP. The construction of Skavica HPP is also mentioned as an investment on renewables. The Albanian government has announced that the Skavica HPP will be built by the American company Bechtel, this week during the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation on economic Issues with the US. Albania is also slated to receive assistance for water management systems.

In parallel to the Economic Investment plan to support the region, the Commission has presented guidelines for implementing the Green Agenda in the Western Balkans, expected to be adopted at the Western Balkans Summit in Sofia in November 2020.

Additionally, the EU offers the possibility of providing guarantees to help reduce the cost of financing for both public and private investments and to reduce the risk for investors. Support through the new Western Balkans Guarantee facility, under the EU External Action Guarantee and the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus, is expected to mobilize potentially investments of up to €20 billion in the next decade.

Commenting on the economic package, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said: " With the Economic and Investment Plan, we are backing our Enlargement Package assessment with action, providing deep and strong support for economic recovery and reform – for a modern, greener and more prosperous Western Balkans delivering better to their citizens on the road to the EU."

TTimes
By TTimes October 8, 2020 10:57