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The first loan ever under the EaSI Funded Programme signed in Serbia

    Date: 15 July 2020
  • EUR 10 million envisaged to support some 4,000 micro-enterprises under the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Funded Instrument.
  • This is the very first loan under the EaSI Funded Instrument to be signed
  • From all of the 34 countries that can access the EaSI Funded programme, the first transaction is taking place in Serbia

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and the European Union announced today the first EaSI Funded Instrument loan transaction in Serbia, worth €10 million. The loan will allow Opportunity Bank Serbia (OBS), the only specialised financial services provider for micro and small enterprises on the Serbian market, to increase its outreach towards vulnerable entrepreneurs, particularly in rural areas. In particular, OBS plays an instrumental role in the local economy by enhancing farmers’ access to various loan products.

The transaction will enhance the lending capacity of Opportunity Bank Serbia, whose financial offer is complemented with non-financial services. The bank will distribute the loans under terms more favorable to existing commercial loans, and provide entrepreneurs complementary education to improve on their business management skills.

Alain Godard, EIF Chief Executive stated: “This EaSI-funded transaction will enable the EIF and OBS to support more vulnerable entrepreneurs, including micro-farmers, across Serbia. This will contribute to the development of the microfinance sector in the country, strengthening its competitiveness and sustaining jobs, thereby contributing to improving the quality of life for local communities of small entrepreneurs.”

Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “I am delighted to announce this very first loan transaction under our new EaSI Funded Instrument, which makes Serbia the first country to benefit from the programme, helping the local economy. In these challenging times, the EU remains committed to supporting access to microfinance, which can help boost jobs, equal opportunities and inclusion, also at the local level, as part of the recovery efforts in the Western Balkans.”

Vladimir Vukotić, Chief Executive Officer of Opportunity Bank Serbia said: “Supporting micro-entrepreneurs and small farmers has always been a priority for Opportunity Bank (OBS), since our mission is to enhance employment and development of rural communities through providing access to finance to the underbanked. Presently, this strategy seems to be of even greater importance given that the economic crisis has slowed-down business activity and resulted in micro businesses and farmers facing even bigger challenges of keeping their operations alive. For OBS, it is of critical importance to be recognized as trusted partner of EIF, as this partnership provides the Bank with additional capacity to sustainably provide access to finance to the micro businesses and entrepreneurs. This is the third operation between OBS and EIB Group, capitalizing on the strong relationship developed during the last couple of years, expanding and complementing the funding base of OBS.“

Background information:

The EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) aims at supporting the EU's objective of high level employment, adequate social protection, fighting against social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions. The EaSI programme’s Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship axis consists of a range of EU level financial instruments funded by the European Union and managed by the European Investment Fund.

The EaSI programme aims to support to financial intermediaries that offer microloans to entrepreneurs or finance to social enterprises. The objective is to increase access to microfinance for vulnerable groups who want to set up or develop their business and micro-enterprises, through notably loans of up to € 25 000 and social enterprises through investments of up to € 500 000. The microfinance and social entrepreneurship support is being implemented through three EU level instruments. The first one was the EaSI Guarantee scheme, launched in June 2015, which enables financial intermediaries to reach out to micro-entreprises and social enterprises that they would otherwise not have been to finance due to risk considerations. The second instrument, the EaSI Capacity Building instrument, was launched in 2016 with the aim of helping financial intermediaries develop their institutional capacity in order to grow and better serve micro- and social enterprises. Last but not least, the recently launched EaSI Loan Fund provides funding in the form of senior and subordinated loans to financial intermediaries in order to boost lending capacity. For additional information refer to: https://www.eif.org/what_we_do/microfinance/easi/easi-funded-instrument/index.htm

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union's bank. It is the long-term lending institution of the EU and is the only bank owned by and representing the interests of the European Union Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investments in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. The EIB works closely with other EU institutions to implement EU policy. As the world’s largest multilateral borrower and lender by volume, the EIB provides finance and expertise for sound and sustainable investment projects which contribute to furthering EU policy objectives. More than 90% of EIB activity is focused on Europe but the Bank also supports the EU's external and development policies. www.eib.org

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe's micro, small and medium-sized businesses by helping them to access finance. The EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments, which specifically target this market segment. In this role, the EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment. For more information: https://www.eif.org

Opportunity Bank Serbia (OBS) exists since 2002, when it was registered as a Savings Bank. It converted into a commercial bank in 2007 in line with the Law on Banks which limited lending in Serbia to banks only. The Bank is focused on providing micro-loans for small rural subsistence farming, micro and small businesses and low income micro personal clients. OBS is a double bottom line institution with the mission to create opportunities for the financially excluded to fulfil their business and lifecycle needs and improve their lives as well as the lives of their families through providing financial products and services. As of Dec 31 2019, OBS had 425 co-workers in 30 Branches across Serbia, and has held the largest market shares in the number of agricultural loan clients (43%) and entrepreneurs (23%) in the country.

Opportunity Bank is member of Opportunity International (OI) – Microfinance Network founded in 1971 and seated in Chicago (U.S.A.), which today serves 10 million hardworking families in 23 countries around the world. Sole majority shareholder of Opportunity Bank is Opportunity Transformation Investments Inc. (OTI), a holding company and investment arm of Opportunity International, which has been established in June 2000 with aim of holding shareholding stakes in OI’s partner banks around the world. For more information: www.obs.rs


Press contacts:

EIB Group:
Tibor Jona
tel.: +352 691 287 052
Website: www.eib.org/press - Press Office: +352 4379 21000 – press@eib.org

Opportunity Bank Serbia:
Mirjana Panin
tel: +381 62 75 74 38   

Website: www.obs.rs, www.samsvojgazda.rs , www.7koraka.rs, www.zena5.rs 


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