The European Commission has launched a new EUR 2.1 billion financial package to support 14 flagship investment projects in transport, energy, the environment, human capital, and the private sector in the Western Balkans.
This is the fifth investment package under the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans of EUR 9 billion in grants, aimed at mobilizing a total of EUR 30 billion. The plan was announced in October 2020.
Out of the 14 new projects, eight are connected to the energy sector, energy efficiency measures, water system, and green transport, according to the European Commission.
The EUR 2.1 billion investment package includes EUR 528 million in EU grants from the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III), additional bilateral contributions from EU Member States and Norway, loans from international financing institutions, and contributions from the economies of the Western Balkans.
Green transport in Tirana
The Green Transport Tirana project will create the city’s first electric bus rapid transport system (e-BRT) to combat high levels of air pollution and traffic congestion. The e-BRT system will rely on electric-battery buses with a smart charging strategy.
The project is estimated at EUR 111.3 million, while the grant is EUR 32.1 million.
The funds will be used for two projects in BiH.
The Sarajevo Water Project (EUR 32.2 million; EUR 2.6 million grant) seeks to reduce water losses by replacing or rehabilitating aging pipelines, pumping stations and wells, adding or improving about 4,000 new household connections, according to the European Commission. It also aims to improve the overall efficiency of water supply in the wider Sarajevo canton.
The second one is the rehabilitation of the Čapljina pumped-storage hydropower plant. Its role is essential for increasing the share of renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.
The project will rehabilitate Čapljina’s equipment, ensuring generation and pumping potential for another 15 years of operation, the commission said.
The value of the project is EUR 18.9 million, with a EUR 3.1 million grant.
Strengthening power grid in North Macedonia
North Macedonia has received money for the investments in the power grid and energy efficiency.
The transmission network in the southeast region of the country will be strengthened in order to enable the integration of renewable energy sources.
The project, valued at EUR 34.7 million (EUR 8 million grant), includes building a substation and new connections, reconstructing overhead lines, and installing transmission lines and transformers.
The Public Sector Energy Efficiency Project addresses the country’s reliance on inefficient coal-fired generation and high energy consumption.
It focuses on energy efficiency in public buildings, aiming to achieve savings, reduce CO2 emissions, and establish an Energy Efficiency Fund. Sub-loans and grants are provided to municipalities for cost-effective renovations, the commission said.
The project is estimated at EUR 27.5 million, with a EUR 2.2 million grant.
Energy-efficient campus in Belgrade
Serbia has received funds for the modernization of hydropower plant Bistrica, and for energy efficiency measures.
The HPP Bistrica rehabilitation will cost EUR 40.9 million, with a EUR 7.7 million grant.
A project called Improving Energy Efficiency and Integrated Energy Management of the Technical Faculties Campus in Belgrade will result in an energy-efficient campus for the city’s electrical engineering and technical faculties.
This investment will ensure the construction of a new 30,000 m2 university center and the renovation of existing buildings spanning 93,000 m2. It will benefit approximately 15,000 students and 1,750 staff members, the commission said.
All six Western Balkans countries will benefit from Promoting Green Lending in the Western Balkans (II) project
The project is estimated at EUR 169.6 million, with a EUR 21.5 million grant.
All six Western Balkans countries will benefit from Promoting Green Lending in the Western Balkans (II) project, implemented by the Green for Growth Fund (GGF).
The proceeds of the capital increase will expand the supply of financing for renewable and efficient energy measures in the region, and contribute to the reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions among end borrowers.
The investments are estimated at EUR 231 million, while the grant is EUR 24 million.
Várhelyi: We have to roll out these projects as soon as possible
According to the commission, the projects were prepared in close cooperation with the Western Balkans partners and international financial institutions in order to accelerate the European perspective of the region.
Following the new investment package, a total of 54 Economic and Investment Plan’s flagship investments are being supported through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), worth about EUR 8 billion, including EUR 2.3 billion in EU grants.
WBIF is the main financial vehicle for implementing the EU’s ambitious Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.
EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said that with this new investment package the EU is sending a loud and clear message to its Western Balkans partners: their future is within the EU and we are making steady progress to close the economic development divide.
“Now, I call on our Western Balkans partners and international financial institutions to roll out these projects as soon as possible so citizens and businesses in the region can reap the benefits from these investments,” he added.