Economics Minister Joseph Deiss has called on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to boost its support of poorer countries.
Addressing the EBRD’s annual meeting in Belgrade on Sunday, Deiss said it was important for action to be taken in countries where people were also fighting for democracy.
The EBRD, which is meeting for two days, was set up in 1991 to help build the economies of ex-Soviet countries. It also helps to promote political reform.
But Deiss told delegates that recent geopolitical changes in Europe necessitated a change of direction at the bank.
"After the entry last year of eight of the 27 countries [in which the bank operates] our bank should start to reflect on its strategy," said Deiss, speaking in his capacity as Swiss governor at the bank.
"We must support the indispensable reforms in those countries where the climate of investment is weak."
The new EU members now only need support in certain areas, said Deiss. This means that the bank could concentrate its efforts on the poorer countries.
The turbulent events in Georgia, Ukraine and now Uzbekistan have shown that the bank must play an important role in helping these countries transform their economies, added the minister.
Uzbekistan, where there was unrest between protestors and government troops nine days ago, is expected to be a key topic at the meeting. The EBRD's director, Jean Lemierre, opened the meeting by condemning the violence that took place in the country.
Delegates have also been assessing a plan launched last year to boost the economies of Central Asia. It aims to help those countries which remain in the early stages of transition, such as Uzbekistan, from a centralised to a free-market economy.
The Swiss director at the bank, Laurent Guye, said that the plan was already bearing fruit. Last year €4.1 billion (SFr6.4 billion) - or 47 per cent of the funds provided by the bank - was invested in these countries.
While in Belgrade, Deiss is also expected to hold bilateral talks with ministers from Serbia and Montenegro. Switzerland represents the country at the bank as well as at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Deiss will also visit two Swiss development aid projects in the region.
swissinfo with agencies
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was formed in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It was created to help ex-Soviet countries develop a free-market economy and currently invests in 27 countries in central Europe and central Asia.
The EBRD consists of 60 member countries and two non-governmental organisations. 3,000 delegates are attending the meeting.
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