Sector News
Serbian and Bulgarian SMEs To Bloom After New EU Funding Plans

The European Union announced two separate plans this month, which will benefit small and medium-size enterprises in both Serbia and Bulgaria.

According to an article from RTT News, the European Investment Bank signed two loans worth a total of €80 million with Société Generale Bank Serbia (SGRS) and Sogelease Serbia (SLRS) in an effort to assist SMEs, midcap companies and infrastructure schemes promoted by local authorities. The loans will help Serbia in its efforts to integrate into the EU.

SGRS signed a €60 million loan with EIB last week in Belgrade, which will finance SME and midcap projects involving knowledge economy, environmental protection, health, education and services. The EIB signed a loan worth €20 million, of a total of €40 million already approved with SLRS.

Dario Scannapieco, EIB Vice-President responsible for the Western Balkans, said the deal would improve access for Serbian SMEs and midcaps to long-term financing provided on favourable terms. He said that the two loans demonstrated the EU bank’s commitment to support Serbian projects and help the country towards accession and rapid integration into the EU.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, it was announced this month that the EU will invest €1.1 billion of regional funds for economic growth and to support SMEs. An article in Bulgarian news website Focus says the EC has adopted the 2014-2020 operational programme for “Innovation and Competitiveness” to develop the nation’s economy. According to the article, €1.18 billion of the total €1.39 billion invested in the programme will come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which is aimed at economic regeneration projects promoted primarily by the public sector; it also helps to develop SMEs and ensure economic growth is more evenly shared across regions and between industries.

The main focus of this programme is to boost growth and productivity of SMEs, as well as connecting business with research networks and promoting entrepreneurship in Bulgaria. One way of achieving this will be by providing bank loan guarantees and equity investments. The programme will also support measures to improve companies’ resource and energy efficiency.

EC Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Cretu, said the investment package would encourage businesses to be more competitive and innovation-driven, helping them reach the European goals of smart and sustainable growth.

Another Balkan nation, Romania, recently held the third edition of the ‘SME Forum,’ organised by Romexpo and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (CCIR). At the opening, CCIR President Mihai Daraban said that SMEs contribute 50 percent of the value add in Romania’s economy, falling below the European average of 58 percent. So there is incentive to raise that.

According to an article in Romanian news agency ActMedia, the CCIR’s figures show that 99.7 percent of the more than 643,000 companies operating at present in Romania are SMEs. The CCIR President said the figures showed the importance of the SME sector in the national economy.

While Serbian and Bulgarian SMEs will receive a boost from new EU programmes, Romania is still working to help SMEs become more sustainable.

Commenting on value added statistics being below the European average, Daraban said: “There’s a lot of work still to be done about this … All we want is to create a diversity of opportunities, so that SMEs are able to develop in a self-supporting direction.”