The Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) is celebrating 5 years of its launch. On that occasion an Anniversary event took place on 7 November 2017 in Sarajevo that brought together banking/financial institutions, Western Balkans beneficiary countries and companies, investors, academia and regional organisations.
In its welcome address (Video message), Ms Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, stressed the importance of the Facility for the achievement of the EU strategic priorities in the Western Balkans. She highlighted the fact that the EU contribution of EUR 150 million in WB EDIF leverages more than EUR 650 million for the SMEs in the region, creates and will sustains more than 20 000 jobs with special focus on innovation and on young entrepreneurs.
Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of the Delegation of the EU and EU Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, highlighted the importance of the Western Balkans SMEs for the local economy and the strategic role of the EU support for the region. The 2025 accession perspective for the frontrunners (President Junker’s State of the Union speech) provides impetus for all Western Balkans countries.
The Anniversary event provided the opportunity to the International Financing Institutions (European Investment Bank, European Investment Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, World Bank Group, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) to present the different instruments and programmes they run under EDIF- equity, guarantee, loans, technical assistance. Beneficiary companies, investors and representatives of the Chambers of Commerce shared experience, suggestions and opinions regarding the business environment and culture in the region.
All participants agreed that a lot was achieved through EDIF in the last 5 years and the instruments have huge potential to boost the innovation and the regional economic integration. Forward-looking suggestions were made on the need to: provide long-term local currency financing to the companies, recalibrate the SME definition according to the local specificities; organise more business-to-business meetings in the region and bring the relevant stakeholders together; look for political buy-in for key reform measures; avoid the over engineering of the EDIF’s financial instruments; keep the facility focussed; better communicate EDIF’s achievements throughout the region.
The Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility is a Platform of cooperation between the European Union, major bilateral and international Financing Institutions and the six Western Balkans beneficiaries. WB EDIF’s mission is to address some of the major access to finance gaps in the Western Balkans financial market that the local companies are facing. The facility also aims to enhance the entrepreneurial spirit and the investment capacity of the SMEs as to make them competitive and ready to integrate the regional, the EU and the global market.