The European Commission has unveiled a substantial 3.2 billion euros investment package to support 21 transport, digital, climate and energy connectivity projects in the Western Balkans.
This is the first major package of projects under the EU’s ambitious Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which the Commission adopted in October 2020. Over the next years, the Economic and Investment Plan is set to mobilise up to 30 billion euros of investments, as a combination of grants, preferential loans and guarantees. The Plan will help close the development gap between the European Union and the region and support the post-pandemic economic recovery.
“With this major investment package we are accelerating the delivery of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans on the ground,” said European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi. “We have identified these flagship projects in close cooperation with our partners. Better and more sustainable connections in transport, digital infrastructure and renewable energy will boost the economy, drive the green and digital transition of the region and bring a host of opportunities for people and businesses in the Western Balkans and across the EU. These investments will also speed up the integration of the region, in line with its clear European perspective.”
The projects in this first package cover the Plan’s priority sectors, including the development of renewable energy sources with the construction of solar power plants. In particular, it will focus on a 12 million euros investment project to install a floating solar photovoltaic power plant at the Vau i Dejës reservoir (in Albania), the first application of pure-floats technology in the Western Balkans. The plant is expected to produce over 18 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity and displace 8,700 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Another focus will be on the Trans-Balkan Electricity Transmission Corridor, which will be instrumental for a successful clean energy transition in the region and will contribute to the phasing-out of coal use. The 40.8 million euros investment will be used to construct 84 kilometres of double overhead transmission line from Bajina Bašta in Western Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Regarding environmental protection, the Plan will support the construction of wastewater treatment plants, which are essential for the green perspectives of the region and will help to safeguard the health and welfare of the people in the Western Balkans. For example, a 76 million euros investment for the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, will ensure that treated wastewater is discharged in line with EU standards. This will safeguard people’s health and bring environmental benefits to surrounding rivers and lakes.