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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 up to €85 million in loans. An estimated 1,200 companies 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 these businesses employ over 70% of the workforce. At the same time, unemployment rates among young people are the highest in the world. Many young workers are engaged in temporary jobs, in the informal economy, and with a high level of skill mismatch.
To address youth unemployment – a critical economic and social challenge for the region – the EU has provided additional guarantees through the European Investment Fund that will enable banks in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo to offer loans on favourable terms to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, says that he believes that support for youth employment is very important: “We continue to help 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 more robust, more innovative and dynamic economy in the region,” he said.
The EU support comes as part of the EU for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship initiative implemented under the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF).
The WB EDIF is a comprehensive financing platform combining loans, equity, guarantees, incentive grants and technical assistance to support SME growth. Since 2012, the EU has provided over €190 million through the WB EDIF, supporting 113,000 jobs and 5,400 SMEs across the Western Balkans.
 Intesa Sanpaolo Banka Bosnia i Hercegovina, ProCredit Bank Albania, ProCredit Bank Kosovo, Raiffeisen Bank Albania and Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo
More information Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility
This is an adaptation of an article published by the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Read the original article.