Well connected transport and energy networks drive economic growth and jobs. They help attract investments and provide opportunities for businesses and people including youth. In the Western Balkans, they contribute to good neighbourly relations. Our connectivity agenda therefore aims to improve links within the Western Balkans as well as between the region and the EU.
The European Union has set aside up to €1 billion for connectivity investment projects and technical assistance for the 2014-2020 period. We provided the first €200 million at the Western Balkans Summit in Vienna in August 2015 for ten priority projects. We expect to break ground on some of these in the coming months. This year we follow-up with approximately €100 million for three connectivity projects, as well as an additional €50 million for the Regional Energy Effciency Programme and the Green for Growth Fund. These initiatives will help fnance energy effciency measures in residential buildings as well as hydro-projects.
Connectivity is not merely about expensive infrastructure projects. New highways only make sense if existing networks are properly maintained, and there is little point in investing in expensive energy inter-connectors without willingness to pursue energy trading within the region. Such reform measures are relatively inexpensive, and therefore do not put pressure on the limited fscal space of the region. This is why it is so important that WB6 leaders have agreed to step up efforts to implement reform measures to open markets, create a transparent regulatory framework that builds investor confdence, and remove barriers so utilities are managed effectively and effciently.
These reform measures now need to be implemented without delay, so that we may provide added value to the infrastructure investments presented in this brochure. By working together to address shared challenges, the WB6 develop mutual trust which is so necessary for reconciliation, good neighbourly relations and the prosperity of the region. They are also key ingredients for the countries to advance on their path towards EU membership.
I am pleased to share with you these examples of our commitment to help drive forward the connectivity agenda, as well as our efforts to help green the region and thus support our partners implement their COP21 commitments.