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Siniša Mitrović, Director Of The Centre For Circular Economy At The Chamber Of Commerce & Industry Of Serbia

Renewals Should Be Green

The circular economy could represent a channel for the swifter recovery of the Serbian economy following the pandemic. This is because it is based on resource independence and the use of internal reserves and domestic resources – waste, recycling and energy, which would create room to generate a large number of jobs, which are essential for us now.

The circular economy is a fourth industrial revolution platform for applying a new industrial model that envisages the deep integration and management of production and information flows, as well as the interaction of technological and thought processes. It represents a new business model that foresees the maximum optimisation of economic processes, along with the reuse of available raw materials and energy resources from waste streams, the efficient use of energy and human resources, and savings in time and ways of organising business, alongside the greatest possible reduction of negative impacts on the environment and climate.

“It is extremely important for circular economy principles to be applied in the Serbian economy, because it helps the national economy to build its own capacity and become more competitive on the European market, helps open up new markets and create new jobs,” says Siniša Mitrović, Director of the Centre for Circular Economy at the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia.

“The circular economy, which is increasingly discussed in Serbia, could be a channel for the swifter recovery of the Serbian economy following the pandemic, because it is based on resource independence and the use of internal reserves and domestic resources – waste, recycling and energy, which would create room to generate a large number of jobs, which are essential for us now,” adds our interlocutor.

Companies very often consider that they should be exempt from paying environmental tax, explaining that they don’t contribute to environmental pollution and viewing this tax as one of the many para-fiscal charges burdening the economy. What is the stance of the CCIS on this issue?

– The charge for protecting and improving the environment is necessary and isn’t a problem for companies, provided the “pay as you pollute” model is applied consistently and, of course, the money collected from charges is spent transparently. The Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia has been addressed by numerous companies with complaints regarding the methodology for calculating this tax, and the CCIS has responded by sending a letter to all relevant parties, including the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government and the Ministry of Finance, with the aim of identifying the most efficient, and at the same time sustainable, systemic solutions in this area. We must build a transparent and predictable model of charges that’s stimulating for companies. If a company applies circular economy tools, saving both resources and energy, and invests new usage value gains from generated waste in the environment, then it should be exempt from environmental charges.

Very few companies in Europe are also switching to a circular economy, despite innovative solutions being available to them, simply because it’s easier for them to stick to classic approaches. What would motivate our companies to adopt this philosophy?

– We have no third way other than to transition from a linear to a circular model, if we plan, both now and in the future, to grow our GDP by up to six per cent annually. The Green Agenda for the Western Balkans envisages five pillars.

The first pillar is climate change, including decarbonisation, energy and mobility. Climate change encompasses initiatives such as rapid alignment with EU climate law, assistance to partners in preparing and implementing long-term climate adaptation strategies for increasing resilience, especially through the climate protection of investments, securing technical assistance in schemes for emissions trading and fossil fuel alternatives, researching opportunities for early inclusion of the Western Balkans in the EU emissions trading, and the region’s inclusion in the European Climate Pact and its activities.

The transition to clean energy implies assistance in harmonising regulations with EU legislation, helping partners to draft national energy and climate plans, assistance in the development of private and public schemes for the renovating and securing of buildings, adequate funding, expanding the “EU renewal wave” to encompass the Western Balkans, assistance to partners in implementing programmes for resolving energy poverty in the region, the inclusion of the Western Balkans in the Coal Regions in Transition initiative, conducting an evaluation of the socio-economic impact of decarbonisation across the region.

We are confronted by numerous difficulties in the green transition, and they can be identified through inconsistent laws and the lack of a fully systemic solution for transitioning to a circular economy

Smart and sustainable mobility entails the implementation of a regional plan for the transformation of railways, a strategy to increase the capacity of railways and develop new transport models, the implementation of EU standards, via the European Rail Traffic Management System, an action plan to ease transport, with the implementation of the road safety and road action plans, assistance in developing resilience to climate change, and the defining and implementing of sustainable urban mobility plans and sustainable mobility solutions.

The circular economy, especially when it comes to dealing with waste, recycling, sustainable production and the efficient use of resources, entails supporting the entire region in improving the sustainability of raw material production, working on integrating the Western Balkans into the EU’s industrial supply chains, supporting the region in developing circular economy strategies, implementing targeted consumer initiatives aimed at raising citizens’ awareness of waste, separated collection and sustainable consumption; preparing and implementing programmes for preventing waste generating, waste management and recycling strategies, building and maintaining waste management infrastructure, developing a regional agreement on the prevention of plastic pollution, including special solutions for the priority issue of marine waste, and supporting the establishment of sustainable development policies.

Biodiversity, aimed at protecting and restoring the region’s natural wealth, relates to regional support for the development and implementation of the Western Balkans Biodiversity Action Plan 2030, assistance in preparing and implementing forest landscape restoration across the Western Balkans, assistance in analysing the benefits of biodiversity solutions based on nature and opportunities to integrate them into the development of plans for the climate and other areas, strengthening the mechanism for regional cooperation on biodiversity conservation, as well as engagements with the UN Convention in Rio, supporting exchanges of knowledge between research centres of the Western Balkans and the EU, and researching the possibilities of establishing a Western Balkans Biodiversity Information Centre.

In the area of combatting air, water and soil pollution, activities entail assistance to the region in developing and implementing air quality strategies, consisting of increasing the applying of the best available techniques in accordance with the Directive on Industrial Emissions, the accrediting of networks for monitoring air quality and the region’s inclusion in pan-European networks that support initiatives for removing pollution. There is also support for the modernisation of water monitoring infrastructure, implementation of the Water Framework, the Directive on Urban Wastewater and Extractive Waste, support for regional and/ or bilateral agreements and/or protocols on cross-border water pollution and pollution on land-based sources, investments in waste management and wastewater treatment plants for water to be reused in agriculture, investments in the collection and treatment of urban wastewater.

We are extremely well aware of the fact that at this moment there is a particularly exasperating situation for the economy as a consequence of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which is why businesses need additional support and responses from all relevant institutions

In the area of sustainable food systems and rural areas, support relates to harmonising the agri-food and primary production sectors with EU standards on food safety, plant and animal health, the strengthening of official sanitary controls throughout the food supply chain and improving food labelling in order to ensure food safety, improve consumer information and promote sustainable food. This area also includes the promotion of ecological and organic agriculture and reducing the use of synthetic chemicals, support for cooperation between scientific and educational institutions and producers and processors operating in the agri-food sector, support for actions aimed at reducing waste in rural and coastal areas (along roads, in rural rivers), bolstered efforts to ensure the sustainable development of rural areas and the improving of rural infrastructure within the scope of IPARD.

The implementing of such an ambitious agenda would require significant public and private funding at the national, regional and international levels. External instruments under the auspices of the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021-2027) are currently being negotiated with the Council and the European Parliament.

Financial assistance provided to date in the areas of the environment and climate change has been mainly sector specific, focused on the process of harmonisation with the EU acquis, in line with the requirements of Chapter 27, at the bilateral (mainly investment) and regional (mainly capacity building) levels. The proposal of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, IPA III, envisages a dedicated space for implementing the Green Agenda and sustainable connectivity.

How will the Operational Team of the CCIS and the Ministry of Environmental Protection function and what will be this body’s mission?

– We are very grateful to Minister Vujović for accepting that the model of the operational team, which is in constant coordination, sets the priorities and solutions. We have several pillars of coordination: a regulatory framework (amending the Law on Waste Management, the Law on Packaging and Packaging Waste and the Law on Climate Change), the National Strategy for Waste Management to 2030, problems in operations and the applying of environmental standards, environmental taxes and charges, as well as the new credit mechanism GREEN FUND (green credit bank). We are confronted by numerous difficulties in the green transition, and they can be identified through inconsistent laws and the lack of a fully systemic solution for transitioning to a circular economy, then poor waste management (low level of recycling, illegal landfills, insufficiently elaborated regulations, lack of infrastructure), a low level of knowledge and awareness about the circular economy and its benefits for society as a whole, a small level of investments and a lack of financial incentives for technological modernisation, inefficient energy consumption and a high percentage of fossil fuel inclusion in the energy balance, and poor engagement of the media…

INCENTIVE

We have no third way other than to transition from a linear to a circular model if we plan, both now and in the future, to grow our GDP by up to six per cent annually

CHOICE 

I can conclude that economic relations between the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Serbia are excellent and that Serbia is one of our most important trade partners

SUPPORT

The proposal of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, IPA III, envisages a dedicated space for implementing the Green Agenda and sustainable connectivity

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