Gov’t considers banks’ role in Balkan development aid

The government said yesterday it hopes to see Greek banks play a pivotal role in providing development aid to Balkan neighbors and in promoting conditions for the sustainable growth of business in these countries. The ministers of the economy, Nikos Christodoulakis, and foreign affairs, George Papandreou, discussed the issues together with senior bankers, at a meeting which also dealt with preparations for Greece’s turn at the European Union rotating presidency next year. «We raised the issue of how Greek banks can improve coordination for the effective implementation of the development aid program, which is aimed not only at funding infrastructure projects in neighboring countries, but also at promoting the creation of an entrepreneurial web, bolstering small and medium-sized enterprises and transferring know-how. The goal is to create a development momentum in these countries with modern and competitive enterprises that will boost growth and enhance the prospects for prosperity,» said Christodoulakis after the meeting. «These issues become all the more important in view of Greece’s (EU) presidency, when one of the priorities will be the promotion of their accession to Europe, with the appropriate economic and administrative infrastructure… We consider banks basic partners in the effort for the reconstruction of the Balkans,» said Papandreou. Greece’s National Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (ESOAB) for the 2002-06 period, which acquired legal substance through Law 2996 of 2002, envisages the provision of a total of 550 million euros in economic assistance for projects in six countries: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Yugoslavia will receive the lion’s share, 265 million euros, FYROM 74.84 million, Romania 70.43 million, Bulgaria 54.29 million, Albania 49.89 million and Bosnia 35.55 million euros. Funds may come from the bilateral development aid and cooperation program, the budgets of the foreign and other related ministries, and other public sector bodies. Separately, in his first press conference since his appointment, the deputy foreign minister responsible for external trade and development aid, Andreas Loverdos, said Greece had submitted relevant plans to the six countries, which are expected to respond with detailed proposals shortly. One of the biggest projects expected to receive a considerable amount of aid funds is the main highway in southern Yugoslavia. Loverdos plans to visit Belgrade for the relevant discussions on June 19. «Greece does not wish to fund many small projects, but prefers those that have ‘visibility,’ which can be seen by our Balkan friends,» he said. He also reiterated the consortium’s call for a rerun of the bidding process. He said ETA should focus on the higher offer and the benefits to the state coffer.