The EBRD is opening an office in Podgorica for the first time after Montenegro joined the bank as an independent country last year.

The EBRD, southeastern Europe’s largest institutional financial investor, has been active in Montenegro as part of the former union of Serbia and Montenegro since 2001, but following the country’s independence on June 3, 2006, all EBRD shareholders accepted Montenegro as a shareholder and country of operations.

An EBRD delegation led by Peter Reiniger, business group director for the Western Balkans, Central Europe and Telecommunications, Claudio Viezzoli, director for the Western Balkans, and Marek Lorinc, the newly appointed head of office in Montenegro, visited Podgorica to inaugurate the office and to meet government officials as well as representatives from the local and international business community.

The EBRD is delighted to welcome Montenegro as a country of operations, Reiniger says. During its first year as an independent country, Montenegro has proved to be a politically stable and economically viable state which has the potential to grow rapidly.

The country is building up a favourable business climate and the EBRD’s presence in Montenegro can play an important role in signalling to investors that Montenegro is an attractive investment destination, Reiniger adds.

The bank will support technical assistance and investment in the efforts of the government to continue its implementation of the reform agenda and to improve the country’s business climate. It will also work to support the development of the local private sector and to bring about a sustainable modernisation of key infrastructure areas, such as energy, roads and railways, as well as municipal infrastructure.

Property and tourism are at the heart of Montenegro’s strategy for future economic growth and the EBRD plans to increase operations in this sector with local and international private investors.

Montenegro has already made significant advances in reforming the banking sector and the EBRD will continue to provide support to facilitate this process through cooperation with commercial banks and micro-lending institutions, including financing small and medium size enterprises.

Via its TurnAround Management Programme and Business Advisory Services, the EBRD has also provided management advice to restructure and improve the performance of number of companies.

Before becoming a country of operations, the EBRD’s financing in Montenegro has included infrastructure loans and investments in local banks. So far the bank has invested a total of €43.3mn in Montenegro.