Albania is showing a growing interest in the EIB as a potential financial partner

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 By RUDINA HOXHA

Alessandro Bragonzi, European Investment Bank (EIB) Representative for Albania, Kosovo and Northern Macedonia, told STAR BUSINESS that the EIB and Albania are working closely as the EIB has received requests for financial support for a number of projects in various sectors.

In particular, these requirements relate to the development of the railway sector (Durrës - Rrogozhinë, Rrogozhinë-Pogradec), flood prevention (Lumi Mati, and 4 other river basins), education (University Campus of Tirana), and digital infrastructure (Albanian regional infrastructure, and a wide range of networks in rural areas).

Furthermore, the EIB is also discussing projects in the water, energy and tourism sectors with project promoters and other implementing entities.

 Bragonzi stressed that the decision to strengthen the EIB presence in Albania has been a clear sign of the Bank's growing support for the Western Balkans region.

How is the representation of the European Investment Bank in Albania? How do you assess the current cooperation between Albania and the EIB?

The representation of the EIB in Albania has started since January 2019. The decision to strengthen our presence in Albania has been a clear sign of the Bank's growing support for the Western Balkans region, also in the context of the Economic Resistance Initiative (ERI) launched in 2016, which aims to provide additional funding to help close vital gaps in economic infrastructure and stimulate private sector-led growth as well as create jobs to address the root causes of migration. The establishment of the EIB office in Tirana, included in the European Union delegation, aims to demonstrate the added value of the combination of EU institutions.

So far, the perception has been that thanks to our local presence, the Bank's visibility has increased beyond our traditional counterparts (eg Ministries, financial institutions and publicly owned enterprises), and we have been able to approach the types of other stakeholders, including local governments and smaller corporations. As a representative of the EIB, I have participated in several conferences (eg the annual conference of the Albanian Banking Association, the Tirana Forum, the European Microfinance Day, etc.) and sector workshops (railways, water, etc.), where I could see a growing interest in the EIB as a potential financial partner.

Furthermore, representation has been essential in supporting field projects receiving assistance from the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), a mix of regional structures where the EIB is acting as the main funder for several projects and contributing to the technical assistance provided. .

The local proximity has also helped increase the number and speed of exchanges with Albanian institutions and beneficiaries, thus promoting opportunities and a better understanding of investment needs. An example is the signing of a recent co-operation agreement with the Albanian Development Fund (ADF), where the EIB will provide technical assistance for the preparation of an integrated tourism strategy for the Northern Alps, an area covering the Adriatic coastline between Shengjin and Velipoja. , the shore of Lake Shkodra, the Buna River and the Koplik gate to the Albanian Alps, and includes parts of the territories of the municipalities of Shkodra, Lezha and Malësia e Madhe.

Albania is showing a growing interest in the EIB as a potential financial partner 1

What are the EIB pipeline projects in Albania? 

As I mentioned, EIB is a founding partner and an active financier on the WBIF platform. The EIB has received applications for financial support in a number of projects in various sectors, in particular for the development of the railway sector (Durrës - Rrogozhinë, Rrogozhinë-Pogradec), flood prevention (Mati River, and 4 river basins), education ( University Campus of Tirana), and digital infrastructure (Albanian regional infrastructure, and a wide range of networks in rural areas).

Furthermore, the EIB is also discussing projects in the water, energy and tourism sectors with project promoters and other implementing entities.

Last April, the EIB approved EUR 11 million for the urban redevelopment of the Lana River front in Tirana. Has this project started to develop? What does this project consist of and how will it affect Tirana?

The Lana River Front - the urban redevelopment project - is a historic investment as it represents the first EIB-funded urban redevelopment project in the region. With a loan of EUR 8 million combined with an investment grant of EUR 2.4 million from donor sources of EU Member States, we are contributing to the financing of a EUR 24 million project.

The Lana River project includes the redevelopment of approximately 1.8 km of the Lana River directly downstream of an existing river renovation, as well as the construction of a boulevard (including lanes for cyclists and pedestrians on both sides of the river) starting from the bridge. Kavaja Street, where the parallel boulevards Gjergj Fishta and Bajaram Curri currently end, up to Teodor Keko Street, a large artery that extends the new ring road to the Tirana-Durrës highway. The project site and its environs along the Lana River have suffered from a lack of housing, poor connectivity to the rest of Tirana and environmental degradation.

The area is subject to periodic floods as a result of unplanned and poorly regulated development of residential residences and there are deficiencies in the public infrastructure that serves the area. It should also be noted that in this segment of the river sewage and polluted water are discharged from the surrounding neighborhoods, which increases the urban pollution of the river.

The project includes excavation, direction and sewerage of the river, construction of embankments with a profile similar to those of existing boulevards, construction of two double-lane boulevards on each side of the river, laying of sewer pipes to connect to the network in construction. Thus, the project will reduce the risk of flooding, as well as catalyze urban development and regeneration leading to: i) significant improvement of living standards, ii) removal of sewage from the Lana River (after the completion of the system project of the sewers of Greater Tirana) and iii) the improvement of the traffic circulation, as well as the road safety.

The area benefiting from this project covers an area of 110 ha and is well integrated with investments that are expected to provide significant benefits to a projected population of 65,000 in the future, of whom 20,000 currently live in both river belts. .

A team of national and international advisors is currently working on reviewing existing models, and will soon begin reviewing tender documentation. Construction works are expected to start in Q2-Q3 2020.

Efforts by Albania and northern Macedonia to start EU accession talks continue. How supportive is the EIB in these efforts? 

The Western Balkans has always been an essential part of European history. Our partnership is also based on our common future and multiple economic, political and security interests with mutual benefits. Like the EU Bank, the EIB is part of the overall EU strategy for the region and the EIB's activity in these countries supports the implementation of the European Commission's new strategy for the Western Balkans.

The EIB has been investing in the Western Balkans for over 40 years bringing its expertise, funding instruments and commitment to generate impact through investments that support EU priorities. The Western Balkans region has a key priority for our lending activity and since 2008, the EIB Group has funded projects in the region amounting to over EUR 8 billion.

This reflects our commitment to supporting the construction and improvement of key infrastructure in the region, as well as our multidimensional assistance to the private sector, which strengthens EU enlargement policy. In addition to our traditional ongoing support for the reconstruction and improvement of public infrastructure, since 2010, the EIB has expanded its work to new areas, such as healthcare, education, research and development. We have also started to help the private sector and provide assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It is worth mentioning that we have recently published an update of our brochure dedicated to the Western Balkans, which offers a combined support of the EIB and the EC in various sectors / projects: https://www.eib.org/en/projects/regions/enlargement/the-western-balkans/index.htm

 What are the EIB expectations for 2020?

We expect that a number of WBIF-funded technical assistance projects will be completed or reach an appropriate level of maturity, particularly for the rail network under the so-called Corridor VIII and river flood prevention, to allow us to start the internal process to evaluate project funding.

Furthermore, it is anticipated that thanks to the technical assistance provided by the ERI to the ADF, the first step of the cooperation agreement, which consists of an integrated regional strategy for tourism and urban improvement, will be completed and we can begin preparing the conditions. of references for studies related to sub-projects / investments for a period of 5 years.

Regarding the actions we have under supervision, we expect to approve during the first half of 2020 a possible funding for the improvement of water supply infrastructure in the city of Tirana, which should help increase the quantity and quality of water supply safe drinking, and see the start of construction work on the Lana River project.

 

* Below you will read the English version of the article, according to the original publication in the print version of "Star Business" magazine, January 2020. 

 

Albania Shows an Increasing Interest for EIB as Possible Financial Partner

Alessandro Bragonzi, European Investment Bank (EIB) 's Representative for Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia told STAR BUSINESS that the EIB and Albania are working closely while the EIB has been receiving requests for financial support in a number of projects across different sectors.

In particular, these requests are about the development of the railways sector (Durres- Rrogozhine, Rrogozhine-Pogradec), flood prevention (Mati River, and other 4 river basins), education (University Campus of Tirana), and digital infrastructures (Albania regional Broadband infrastructure, and broadband network in rural areas). 

In addition, the EIB is also discussing projects in the water, energy and tourism sectors with project promoters and other implementing entities.

Bragonzi underlined that the decision to strengthen the EIB presence in Albania has been a clear sign of the Bank's increased support to the Western Balkans region. 

How is European Investment Bank representation in Albania going on? How do you assess the so far cooperation between Albania and EIB?

The EIB representation in Albania is up and running since January 2019. The decision to strengthen our presence in Albania has been a clear sign of the Bank's increased support to the Western Balkans region also in the context of the Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI) started in 2016, which aims at providing additional funding to help close vital economic infrastructure gaps and stimulating private sector-led growth and job creation to tackle the root causes of migration and brain drain. The set-up of the EIB office in Tirana, embedded in the European Union delegation, is aimed at demonstrating the combined value added of EU institutions. 

So far, the perception has been that thanks to our local presence, the Bank's visibility has increased beyond our traditional counterparts (ie Ministries, financial institutions and publicly-owned companies), and we were able to reach out to other type of stakeholders, including local governments and smaller corporates. As EIB representative, I have participated in several conferences (eg the Association of Albanian Banks annual conferences, Tirana Connectivity forum, European Microfinance Day, etc…) and sectoral workshops (railways, water, etc.), where I could notice an increasing interest for EIB as possible financial partner. 

Moreover, the representation has been instrumental in the support on the ground to projects receiving assistance from the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), a regional blending facility where the EIB is acting as lead financier for several projects and contributes to the technical assistance provided. 

The local proximity have also helped to increase the number and rapidness of exchanges with the Albanian institutions and beneficiaries, thus fostering origination opportunities and a better understanding of investment needs. An example, is the recent signature of the cooperation agreement with the Albanian Development Fund (ADF), where EIB will provide technical assistance for the preparation of an integrated tourism strategy for the Northern Alps, an area which covers the Adriatic coastline between Shengjin and Velipoje, the Shkodra Lake shore, Buna River and the Koplik gateway to the Albanian Alps, and includes parts of the territories of the municipalities of Shkodra, Lezha, and Malësi e Madhe.

 What are the EIB projects in the pipeline in Albania? 

As mentioned, EIB is a founding partner and an active financier in the WBIF platform. The EIB has been receiving requests for financial support in a number of projects across different sectors, in particular for the development of the railways sector (Durres- Rrogozhine, Rrogozhine-Pogradec), flood prevention (Mati River, and other 4 river basins), education (University Campus of Tirana), and digital infrastructures (Albania regional Broadband infrastructure, and broadband network in rural areas). Besides these projects, we are also discussing projects in the water, energy and tourism sectors with project promoters and other implementing entities. 

Albania is showing a growing interest in the EIB as a potential financial partner 2

Last April, the EIB approved EUR11 million for the Lana River Front Urban Redevelopment in Tirana. Has this project started to be developed? What is this project consisting of and how it will influence Tirana?

The Lana River Front - Urban Redevelopment project is a landmark investment as it represents the first urban redevelopment project funded by EIB in the region. With EUR 8m loan combined with an investment grant worth EUR 2.4m from our EU Member States donors resources we are contributing to the financing of a EUR 24m project. The Lana river project encompasses the redevelopment of approx. 1.8 km of the Lana River, immediately downstream from an existing renovation of the river, as well as construction of a boulevard (including paths for bicyclists and pedestrians on both sides of the river) starting from the bridge of Rruga e Kavajes, where parallel boulevards Gjergj Fishta and Bajaram Curri currently end, up to Rruga Teodor Keko, a major artery prolonging the new ring road up to the Tirana - Durres highway. The project site and its immediate surroundings along the Lana River, have suffered from a lack of residential amenities, poor connectivity with the rest of the City of Tirana and environmental degradation. 

The area is subject to periodic flooding resulting from unplanned and poorly regulated residential development and suffers from deficiencies in the public infrastructure serving the area. It is also to be noted that in this segment of the river, the wastewater and polluted rainwater from the surrounding neighborhoods are also discharged, which increases the urban pollution of the river. 

The project includes dredging, straightening and canalization of the river, creation of embankments with similar profile as for existing boulevards, the construction of two dual lane boulevards on each side of the river, laying of sewerage pipes to be connected to the network under construction. Thus the project will reduce the flood risk, will catalyze urban development and regeneration leading to: i) significant improvements in living standards, ii) the removal of wastewater from the Lana River (upon completion of the Greater Tirana Sewerage System Project) and iii) the improvement of traffic circulation as well as road safety.

The area which benefits from this project extends over a surface of 110 ha and it is well integrated with investments expecting to deliver substantial benefits for a future projected population of 65,000, out of which 20,000 are currently living in both riverbanks. 

A team of international and national consultants is currently working on reviewing existing designs, and will soon begin the review of tenders documentation. Construction works are expected to start in Q2-Q3 2020. 

The efforts of Albania and North Macedonia to begin the EU accession talks continue. How supportive is the EIB in these efforts? 

The Western Balkans have always been an essential part of European history. Our partnership is grounded also in our shared futures and multiple mutually beneficial economic, political and security interest. As the EU Bank, EIB is part of the overall EU strategy for the region and the EIB activity in these countries supports the implementation of the new European Commission Strategy for the Western Balkans.

The EIB has been investing in the Western Balkans for over 40 years bringing its expertise, financing instruments and commitment to generating impact through investments that support the priorities of the EU. The Western Balkan region is a key priority for our lending activity and since 2008 the EIB Group has financed projects totaling over EUR 8 billion in the region. 

This reflects our commitment to supporting the construction and upgrading of key infrastructure, as well as our multidimensional assistance to the private sector in the region, all of which reinforces the EU's enlargement policy. Besides continuing our traditional support for reconstruction and upgrading of public infrastructure, since 2010, the EIB has expanded its work into new areas, such as health care, education and research and development. We have also started helping the private sector, and offering assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Worth noting that we recently published an update of our dedicated brochure for Western Balkans, which provides both figures and showcases of combined EIB and EC support in various sectors / projects: https://www.eib.org/en/projects/regions/enlargement/the-western-balkans/index.htm

What are the EIB expectations for 2020?

We expect that a number of technical assistance projects funded under WBIF will arrive at completion or reach an appropriate level of maturity, notably for the railway network under the so-called corridor VIII and the river flood prevention, to allow us to start internal process to appraise the financing of the projects.  

Moreover, it is anticipated that thanks to the ERI technical assistance provided to ADF, the first step of the cooperation agreement, which consists of a regional integrated tourism and urban upgrading strategy, will be finalized and we could start preparing terms of references for studies related to sub projects / investments for a 5-year period. 

As concerns our operations under appraisal, we expect to approve during first-half 2020 a prospective financing for the improvement of water supply infrastructures in the City of Tirana, which should help increasing the quantity and quality of supply of safe drinking water, and to see the commencement of construction works for the Lana River project. 

 

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