WASHINGTON – The U.S. federal agency dubbed America’s development bank says it is working with the State Department and Congress on the overall strategy of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) under the Biden administration. Diplomats from Serbia, Kosovo and Greece tell VOA that their countries hope for sustained American interest and investment in the Balkans and the Aegean.
Focus is strong
“DFC is strongly focused on our engagement. Our expert finance officers in Washington will continue to deepen cooperation with embassy officers and our partners in the region to identify promising new investment opportunities in the Balkans and the Aegean,” David Marchick, DFC Chief Operating Officer, told VOA in a written statement.
DFC was created thanks to bipartisan legislation signed into law by then-President Donald J. Trump in October 2018. Armed with $60 billion in funding capacity, DFC is tasked with facilitating private-sector capital and skills in less wealthy countries’ development. At its founding, the agency’s official statement said it was also “charged with an important role in helping to advance U.S. foreign policy by countering the growing influence of authoritarian regimes.”
Observers noted that the newly established agency could function as America’s strategic arm to check Chinese overseas investment and influence as it boosts U.S. commercial and strategic interests worldwide.
First DFC office in Belgrade
In September 2020, DFC established its first regional office, in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. U.S. officials traveled to Serbia, Kosovo and Greece to discuss ways to collaborate through DFC. The change of power in Washington a few months later is reported to have engendered a degree of uncertainty in Balkan and Aegean capitals concerning the fate of projects that had been under discussion, as well as the overall direction of U.S. government support for investment in the region.
As if to allay such concerns, Marchick said in his written statement issued to VOA that “DFC is committed to supporting private sector investment in Serbia, Kosovo, and the broader region. We are eager to build on DFC’s renewed Investment Incentive Agreements with Kosovo and Serbia, which we remain committed to, and continue our enhanced focus that began last year with the establishment of a regional DFC presence based out of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.”
Calling this region a “critical priority,” Marchick said DFC “continues to work closely with the U.S. embassies in the Balkans and the Aegean, and especially Embassy Belgrade, to staff the DFC regional office as we work with the State Department and Congress on DFC’s overall strategy and resourcing for our overseas presence.”
“We are working to help respond to the impacts of COVID-19 in the Balkans and the Aegean with a focus on building critical infrastructure to support economic growth; expanding access to renewable energy, technology, and healthcare; and advancing financial inclusion, particularly for small businesses and women entrepreneurs,” he continued.
For audiences back in the Balkans and the Aegean, more DFC, more America, is welcome news.
As far as Greece is concerned, DFC is “a very important geoeconomic and geostrategic tool in a wider region that includes the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. It can prove very effective in promoting key infrastructure projects, including with regard to energy security, renewables and clean energy,” Nikos Papadopoulos, the head of the Greek Embassy’s public diplomacy section in Washington, told VOA.
Looking to expand ties with U.S.
Valdet Sadiku, who arrived a month and a half ago to lead Kosovo’s diplomatic mission in Washington as chargé d’affaires, said his country is looking forward to expanding ties with America “in every possible way.”
“For us, it’s a priority,” Sadiku told VOA in a phone interview. And even though elections have swept a new group of leaders into office in Pristina since February, Sadiku said, “I can assure you that nothing has changed regarding our relationship with the U.S. in general and DFC in particular in this case.”
“We want to honor the work of Mr. John Jovanovic (the inaugural DFC regional office director). He was really great and contributed to the effectiveness of this office,” Marko Djuric, Serbia’s ambassador to the United States, said in a recent interview with VOA. “We’ll do our best to make our collaboration with the new director even more successful.”
“Serbia’s wish to build as strong as possible ties with the U.S. is nonpartisan,” Djuric emphasized. “We want to work very intensely with the new administration to promote economic ties.”
“In fact, the entire region has been unanimous in supporting the work of the DFC,” he added. “We’re very keen to see DFC engage in as many concrete projects as possible.”