Dominique Hautbergue, Director of the Western Balkans Regional Office of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD): The opening of a new AFD regional office in Belgrade

We are actively working today to extend our activities in other Western Balkans countries in 2022

The opening of a new Agence Française de Développement (AFD) regional office in Belgrade in September 2019 has demonstrates  the importance that France wishes to attribute to the Western Balkans region, by supporting its path towards the  accession to the European Union. AFD is a public financial institution in charge of implementing the French government’s development and international solidarity policy in line with  the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda. Thus, our commitments  in the Western Balkans  are consistent with the low-carbon development trajectories of the countries in the region, while contributing to the socio-economic resilience of populations and territories.

The work carried out by AFD team has made it possible to commit nearly €450 million, first in Albania in 2019, then in Montenegro in 2020 and finally in Serbia in 2021 in the key sectors of transport and mobility, both on the national and local levels, energy efficiency, climate change and most recently, solid waste. We are actively working today to extend our activities in other Western Balkans countries in 2022.

The waste sector has indeed been identified as the major environmental challenge for Serbia’s accession to the European Union: we have just signed with the Serbian authorities, on 17 December 2021, our third financial commitment in Serbia worth a total of €150 million in the presence of our Director for Europe, Middle-East and Asia, Mr. Philippe Orliange. This loan is the result of intense tripartite collaboration between the Serbian authorities, the EBRD and AFD and aims to set up a multi-annual national solid waste management program. This program will take into account all stages of waste management, from collection to recycling and recovery, including sorting.

After the opening of our office and a first installation phase, we developed our activities in close collaboration with the Serbian government, but also in consultation with other donors involved in the country, such as the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) or KfW, our German counterpart. This partnership approach, which is particularly important to us, allows us to raise the ambitions of our partners together.

The opening of AFD’s office in Serbia is an additional tool in intensifying the political and economic relationship with France. Our bilateral relationship is old-standing, rich in history and solidarity, but it experienced a less active period in the 2000s, as if it were “sticking to its achievements”. In recent years, political meetings have multiplied, culminating in July 2019 with the visit of President Emmanuel Macron, followed by several recent visits by President Vucic to Paris. The opening of our office, only a few weeks after the presidential trip, materializes the renewal of French engagement in Serbia.

Serbia is a country with high economic potential, qualified human resources, a great industrial and commercial capital

Our mandate in the Western Balkans is particularly oriented towards supporting the transposition of the acquis communautaire, through the financing of sustainable and innovative projects, integrating a strong environmental and social dimension. To do this, we rely on a wide range of instruments, starting with investment loans, such as our National Solid Waste Program in Serbia (€75 million), budgetary loans to support public policy reforms, such as our Cities and Climate Program in Serbia (€50 million), credit lines with financial institutions, such as the credit line with the IDF in Montenegro (€50 million), or support to NGOs. In addition to the two grants signed today, we also support regional projects in favor of NGOs, such as an incubator project to develop a network of actors with a strong social vocation, the RISE project (Regional incubator for social entrepreneurs).

Finally, we provide expert solutions by mobilizing large grant packages in support of our projects, such as the €500,000 technical assistance contract backed by the Cities and Climate Program to support the climate transition in Serbia.

AFD Group also has two subsidiaries, the first of which is Proparco, which supports the private sector. It is in this context that AFD supports the modernization of Belgrade airport, energy efficiency for Serbian SMEs and renewable energy development projects in Montenegro. The second, Expertise France, supports the authorities through international experts.

Today, Serbia is a country with high economic potential, qualified human resources, a great industrial and commercial capital. But it also has challenges to overcome, particularly in the areas of infrastructure and the environment. They give meaning to our professional commitment here, to the action of the AFD Group and France, alongside the authorities, civil society and companies, the primary actors of the Serbia of tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.