CEB’s new loan to boost Roma entrepreneurship in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia

1 August 2022

PARIS – The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and Redi Economic Development SA (REDI SA) today signed a €3 million loan to improve access to funding for entrepreneurs from Roma communities in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

With 12 million people the Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority. Despite the existing international, national and local policies and funds designed to improve their well-being, about 80% of the Roma in EU member states are estimated to live below the poverty line. They continue to face wide-ranging discrimination, high unemployment rates, inadequate housing conditions, and poor access to health and education.

“True to our social mandate and focus on helping the most vulnerable populations, we are very proud to participate in this innovative endeavour to improve the well-being and prosperity of Roma communities in Europe,” said CEB Governor Carlo Monticelli. “We hope that this project will be replicated in other European countries and that it will lead to improved socio-economic prospects for the Roma.”

The CEB loan is expected to address the persisting financial and social exclusion, poverty and barriers to labour market inclusion of Roma population, all of which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The loan will be channelled to micro-lenders in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia by REDI SA, the first microfinance investment vehicle with a specific focus on Roma populations. The micro-lenders will in turn on-lend the funds to Roma businesses to finance eligible direct costs of fixed assets, productive equipment and working capital.

The loan aims to enhance economic activity in and beyond Roma communities, generate employment, build self-reliance and encourage commercial links between the Roma and the traditional market networks.

“The REDI organization is grateful to the CEB for enabling the access to finance for Roma, one of Europe’s most vulnerable groups,” said Lucian Dumbravieanu, Founder and Board Member of REDI SA. “This loan will contribute to increasing the social cohesion and equitable economic development in the four countries of REDI’s operations and beyond.”

The loan will benefit some of the approximately 2,000 Roma businesses identified by REDI SA in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. 

The CEB has a long history of supporting projects that address the socio-economic exclusion of Roma. In 2021, the Bank was entrusted with the implementation of the Housing and Empowerment for Roma (HERO), a €2.8 million pilot project to generate new inclusion models for disadvantaged Roma in Bulgaria, Romania and the Slovak Republic. Funded by the European Parliament, and overseen by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs, the implementation began in the Slovak Republic on 22 April 2022.

The Bank approved €3 million in loans to the Roma Education Fund Romania to provide educational services and psychological support to Roma children whose parents work abroad, as well as to Roma young adults without formal education. In North Macedonia, a CEB loan of €1 million to Microcredit Foundation Horizonti aims to ease access to finance for low-income persons and vulnerable persons, including Roma.

Set up in 1956, the CEB (Council of Europe Development Bank) has 42 member states. Twenty-two Central, Eastern and South Eastern European countries, forming the Bank's target countries, are listed among the member states. As a major instrument of the policy of solidarity in Europe, the Bank finances social projects by making available resources raised in conditions reflecting the quality of its rating (Aa1 with Moody's, outlook stable, AAA with Standard & Poor's, outlook stable, AA+ with Fitch Ratings, outlook positive and AAA* with Scope Ratings, outlook stable). It thus grants loans to its member states, and to financial institutions and local authorities in its member states for the financing of projects in the social sector, in accordance with its Articles of Agreement.