Thanks to a €10 million guarantee package financed by the European Union, businesses offering employment or training to young people in the Western Balkans will benefit from €85 million in loans. An estimated 1,200 businesses will be able to benefit from these loans, which will allow them to create 1,300 vocational training courses, internships and employment opportunities for young people.
Across the Western Balkans, up to 99% of all businesses are of small or medium size and provide employment to over 70% of the workforce. At the same time, unemployment rates among young people are the highest in the world. They vary from 28.3% in Albania to 55.4% in Kosovo (2018). Many young workers are engaged in temporary jobs, in the informal economy, and with a high incidence of skill mismatches.
To address youth unemployment, a key economic and social challenge for the region, the EU, through the European Investment Fund, has provided additional guarantees that will enable banks in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo to offer loans on favourable terms to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, said: ‘We continue to help the SMEs as they provide a significant part of jobs in the Western Balkans. Supporting businesses that employ young people is a particular priority. Investing in youth gives momentum for a stronger, more innovative and dynamic economy in the region.’
Alessandro Tappi, Head of Equity Investments and Guarantees at the European Investment Fund, said: ‘Strengthening SMEs and creating new employment opportunities for youth is a key that can unlock faster economic and social development in the Western Balkans. The EU`s Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility is an important contribution to economic and social sustainability and the EIF is proud of the opportunity to act on behalf of the EU and support the region on its growth trajectory.’