Towards The EU And A Healthy Environment

The final conference Towards the EU and a healthy environment – What are the conditions for eco-financing in local communities was held in Belgrade, and research on this topic was presented in Belgrade on 23rd October. A survey was conducted by CEP and the Ecological Centre Stanište under the CSOnnect Institutional Grant.

The conference was moderated by Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of the CEP Governing Board, and the participants were addressed by Joachim Waern, Deputy Ambassador of Sweden, Goran Trivan, Minister of Environmental Protection in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Sem Fabrizi, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Tanja Miščević, Head of the Negotiating Team for the Accession of Serbia to the EU, Radoslav Sretenović, President of the State Audit Institution (DRI) and Ruža Radović, Country Office Director of the Regional Environmental Centre (REC) in Serbia.

Srđan Majstorović pointed out that the results of the survey show that the situation in the area of environmental protection is not good at the moment. However, there is great room for improvement of the rules of managing funds in local governments, and for improving the knowledge of the people who work in local government bodies on project implementation in this field.

Joachim Waern, Deputy Ambassador of Sweden to Serbia, said that investing in environmental protection is a long-term investment, and that, although at the beginning it costs a lot, it will pay off many times in the long run. Sweden has funded the project under which this research was carried out.

“Serbia currently allocates only between 0.2% and 0.5% of GDP to ecology, and should allocate 10 times more for this purpose. A much bigger problem is that we do not spend even such limited funds properly”, said Goran Trivan, Minister of Environmental Protection in Serbia, adding that we should be aware that order must be instated in this field, but that “the EU will certainly put pressure on us. At the moment, we need to invest a lot more money and effort in order to achieve what is expected of us. If we do not care about the environment, then we are not on the right track. The EU could help us, but if we do not participate in financing the projects, nobody will give us a cent.”

Sem Fabrizi, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, said that it is important to involve local governments more in decision making and to give them greater responsibility. He commended Serbia saying that it had made progress in the field of environment, primarily through the re-launch of the Green Fund, and expressed his expectation that Chapter 27 would soon be opened. The fact that the EU has allocated €360 million for this area to Serbia shows how much the EU cares about this subject.

“Chapter 27 makes it clear better than any other chapter to see how much Serbia will benefit from joining the EU”, said Tanja Miščević, Head of the Negotiating Team for the Accession of Serbia to the EU. She told participants that Serbia is half way through the preparations for this chapter, and that Serbia will send the first draft of its negotiating position to the European Commission for consultations in the first half of 2018.

President of the State Audit Institution, Radoslav Sretenović, pointed out that the state audit had not been investigating irregularities in this area so far, but that the presented survey suggests that this should be done in the near future.

After the panelists’ addresses, Stefan Šipka, researcher at the Center for European Policy and Coordinator of the use of CSOnnect Grant, and Dejan Maksimović, researcher of the Environmental Centre Stanište, presented the results of their research, which analysed official documents and data from state institutions and (145) local governments, as well as responses to questionnaires sent by municipal and city officials (92) and (97) representatives of civil society organisations dealing with environmental protection.

The research was carried out under the institutional grant of the CSOnnect civil society support programme in the field of environmental protection. The consortium (Ecological Centre Stanište, Ecological Movement of Odžak, Local Ecological Movement from Smederevo and Business and Economy Centre) led by the Center for European Policy is the beneficiary of this grant. The CSOnnect programme is implemented by the Regional Environmental Centre (REC) and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

photo source: CEP