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Interview with Fabio Serri

  • Head of EBRD Tirana Office - Italy
  • Newsletter: Special edition - January 2011

1. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been directly involved since its establishment in 1991 in the process of implementation and modernization of South-East Europe transport infrastructures. How do you evaluate what has been done until today? Was it perhaps possible to obtain better results?

Since 1991 the EBRD has signed 194 projects in the transport sector, with a net cumulative business volume of over € 8 billion, representing a total project costs in excess of € 30.8 billion. The projects cover aviation, ports and shipping, road, rail and intermodal transport infrastructure and the funds were provided in the form of debt financing (including bonds) or equity participations to sovereign states, state-owned companies or private businesses.

Projects in the SEETAC region represent roughly half of the EBRD's Transport commitments both in terms of project numbers (50%) and business volume (56%) and the region itself covers countries in four of the EBRD's defined operating regions: Central Europe and the Baltics, South Eastern Europe, Western Balkans and Serbia and Eastern Europe and the Caucuses.

The Bank has been heavily involved in assisting the region to address significant shortfall in infrastructure maintenance and funding that had existed prior to market liberalisation, to ensure the creation of safe and efficient transport networks throughout the region. As such, the EBRD has been a key partner in the restructuring and commercialisation of most of the railway networks throughout the region and has provided strategic financing to support the key Trans-European Networks, in particular in the road sector. The Bank has also supported the urgently required upgrade of most of the Air Navigation Service Providers in the region.

2. How did the financial and economic global crisis influence the present EBRD lending and technical assistance activities in South Eastern countries? How did the EBRD respond to the crisis ?

The Bank has been able to respond flexibly to the crisis, applying key changes in geographic focus and business purpose, where needed. To support our domestic and international clients we have prioritised debt restructuring of private infrastructure players; stepped in to fill the substantial funding gaps left by the retreat of the commercial banks for key PPP motorway projects; and supported strategic first phase investments in the rail, ports and logistics sectors. In stepping up our activities, we have mobilised additional funding from other financial institutions working closely with the European Investment Bank, The World Bank and International Financing Corporation (IFC), as well as some of the regional and national development banks.

Specific examples of our crisis response activities can be seen in Slovakia, where the Bank was able to step in with € 200 million of financing for the R1 motorway project, whilst at the same time encouraging commercial banks to commit up to € 900 million. The financial close of this transaction in August 2009 was perhaps the first major infrastructure undertaking that was concluded in Europe after the onset of the crisis without direct state support.

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