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EIF signs guarantee deal with Erste Bank Serbia to back micro-enterprises

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The European Investment Fund (EIF) said on Tuesday it signed a guarantee agreement with Erste Bank Serbia to extend a total of 4.7 million euro ($5 million) in loans to micro-enterprises in the country under the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

A total of 850 Serbian micro-borrowers will be able to benefit from loans in starting up and developing their business on attractive terms, without having to provide additional guarantees, EIF said in a statement on its website.

“The European Commission is fully committed to promoting inclusive entrepreneurship in the fight against social and financial exclusion. I therefore warmly welcome today’s agreement with Erste Bank, which marks the first of its kind in Serbia under the EaSI programme,” European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said in the statement.

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Erste Bank Serbia intends to implement the social banking programme gradually, starting with offers for start-ups and social entrepreneurs, followed in 2017 with activities targeting civil society organisations and finally, in 2018, it plans to develop offers for low-income private individuals.

“EIF is strongly committed to supporting disadvantaged social groups experiencing financial and social exclusion. Thanks to today’s agreement, I am confident that Erste Bank Serbia will be able to reach out to those Serbian micro-entrepreneurs whose risk profile would otherwise prevent them from accessing traditional bank financing,” EIF Deputy Chief Executive Roger Havenith commented in the statement.

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 by extending loans worth up to 25,000 euro. The EaSI guarantee scheme was launched in June 2015 and is financed by the European Commission and managed by the fund.

EIF is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. The fund designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment.

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