SMEs in Kosovo will get help in moving towards EU standards as the first loan in the country is made available from the EBRD and EU under the Kosovo SME Competitiveness Support Programme. The EBRD loan is backed with investment grants from the EU, provided under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).
The €5 million loan was signed with Banka per Biznes (BPB), the seventh biggest of the total 10 banks operating in Kosovo, by Henry Russell, the EBRD’s Head of Financial Institutions for the region. CEO Arton Celina signed for BPB. The loan will be used for on-lending to small and medium-sized businesses, to help them upgrade production facilities and improve their environmental protection, worker safety and product quality in line with EU standards. A combination of long-term finance, technical cooperation and investment incentives form a package designed to help unlock the full potential of the country’s SMEs.
Small and medium-sized enterprises form the backbone of economies across the Western Balkans region. With the prospect of EU accession and pressures on growth – including competition from emerging markets – the competitiveness of local SMEs hinge on enhancing the quality of output through innovation and expansion to export markets.
With this in mind, the EBRD launched a follow-up on our first competitiveness facility, the EU-EBRD Private Sector Support Facility, in nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015.
In 2017, funding was approved for a €15 million regional programme through the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) as well as additional support through national EU IPA funds in FYR Macedonia and Kosovo. This funding allows the programme to be rolled out in all six countries of the Western Balkans under the WB EDIF umbrella, optimising impact through scale, regional coordination and cross-country synergies. Its holistic approach enables SMEs to access blended instruments tailored to their needs and the stage of their growth.
BPB, the programme’s first partner in Kosovo, was established in 2001 and offers a wide range of commercial banking products, with a focus on SME and retail. The EBRD has held a 10 per cent stake in the bank since 2011, with the majority stake held by Kosovan businessmen and 4.6 per cent by Banka di Cividale.
The EBRD began investing in Kosovo in 1999. To date, the Bank has signed 59 projects in the country with a net cumulative business volume of €342 million. Kosovo became an EBRD member and country of operations in December 2012.