Odile Renaud Basso

The president of the EBRD, Odile Renaud-Basso, talks to The Banker ahead of its first physical annual meeting in two years, where the bank’s support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion will be top of the agenda. Burhan Khadbai reports.

Odile Renaud-Basso took over as the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in November 2020, when she became the first ever woman to lead the multilateral development bank.

Ahead of May’s annual meeting, Ms Renaud-Basso shares her thoughts about the lessons learnt from holding these meetings virtually, its support for Ukraine and the bank’s green strategy.

Q: This will be the first physical EBRD annual meeting in two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. How does it feel to be back in-person?

A: It’s good to be back in-person where we can rebuild our social capital. We learnt a lot with the virtual model over the last two years and discovered the huge potential it has.

This year’s meeting will be a hybrid — a physical meeting, but with virtual elements too. It’s very important to keep the benefits of both. For example, we can get high-level speakers that don’t have the time to fly out to speak at the event and other delegates can also join remotely. But, we also have the official part of the meeting with our governors in attendance.

Up until February 24, the key topic of this year’s annual meeting was supposed to be our expansion in sub-Saharan Africa. But now the war in Ukraine — and how we can support Ukraine and the affected countries in the region — will be a key topic. With what is going on in Ukraine and the sanctions in Russia, I expect there will be a lot of interest in this year’s annual meeting.

Q: What support have you provided for Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion?

A:  We have announced €2bn in support for Ukraine and other countries who have been directly affected by large inflows of refugees. We are looking at areas where support is most needed and where the EBRD can add the most value. Our role in Ukraine is to support the key functioning of the economy and we have identified five key issues: energy security, access to food, fundamental infrastructure, pharmaceutical support and liquidity support. These are short-term needs. Once the war is over, there will be longer-term needs, such as in reconstruction.

Q: What is your position on Russia and Belarus?

A: We have suspended Russia and Belarus from access to our resources and financing, and we have closed our offices in Moscow and Minsk. The suspension is indefinite, so there is no timeframe on it. We stopped making new investments in Russia since October 2014 and in Belarus since November 2021.

Over the years, the coverage of the EBRD has enlarged, but Europe is still the focus

Q: This year’s annual meeting is in Morocco. The EBRD has faced criticism for its coverage being too big and drifting out of Europe. How would you describe its remit?

A: We remain a regional bank, so it’s not as if we have a global mandate like the World Bank. Over the years, the coverage of the EBRD has enlarged, but Europe is still the focus.

While this isn’t the first annual meeting in the region, it is the first in Morocco, which reflects the enlarged coverage of the EBRD. The southern and eastern Mediterranean region is very important for the bank, including Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, and Algeria, which just joined as a member. We support countries that are economically and politically close to Europe. For example, we don’t have any involvement in Asia or Latin America.

Q: You announced in October that by 2025 the majority of the EBRD’s investment activity will be dedicated to green projects. Are you on track to meet this target?

A: We met this target in 2021, with half of our investments going towards the green sector. This year, we will probably not be able to keep such high levels of investments towards green projects because of the war in Ukraine, where we will have to prioritise emergency financing and other key projects — like what we had to do during the coronavirus pandemic. But this being said, I think high energy prices and dependency on gas will add to the need for renewables and a green transition in the medium term.

What we are working towards is dedicating 50% of our investments towards green projects, and that by the end of this year all our projects will to be fully aligned with the Paris Agreement.


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