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EUROPEAN PROGRESS: FIRST PROJECTS FOR SMES APPROVED

29. April 2015.

Prijepolje - The Managing Board of the European Progress development program approved, at its yesterday’s meeting, the financing of five cluster support projects, the total value of which is 198,000 euros, of which the European Union and the Swiss government would provide 174,000 euros, while clusters themselves would provide the remaining 24,000 euros. 28 small and medium-sized enterprises in the southeast and southwest of the country will be supported by these projects, while it is expected that at least 15 new jobs will be created through the undertaking of activities, as well as at least a 5 percent increase in the turnover and export of goods will be achieved.   

Also approved at the meeting was technical support to ten municipalities regarding the development of capital investment plans and program budgeting for 2016. The preparation of capital investment plans is part of the effort to improve the process of identifying, developing and implementing projects that could make a significant contribution to development. In accordance with the Law on Budget, the local self-governments began applying program budgeting as of 2015, but they still need professional support in order to fully implement this budget model, which contributes to a more effective management of public finances.

During yesterday's fifth meeting, the Managing Board approved the criteria for public calls for the introduction and development of geographic information systems (GIS), public-private partnership projects and the projects for running businesses owned by women. Also approved at the meeting was a plan to support municipalities in improving the development of social inclusion through employment of vulnerable groups.

Also presented at the meeting was the progress that the program had made in the first quarter of the year, while perhaps the best indicator of progress was the information on 77 projects approved for funding, a total worth of which was 1.12 million euros. Another key result achieved during this period was the publication of a call for proposals of local infrastructure projects by the Department for Contracting and Financing Programs with the EU Funds at the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Serbia.

On the other hand, members of the Managing Board pointed to specific challenges that the Program was facing.

The Chairperson of the Managing Board, Branko Budimir, from the Office for European Integration of the Republic of Serbia, pointed out that few submitted proposals were directly connected with economic development. Of the 53 submitted proposals for preparation of technical documentation, only six were economic ones, while as many as 53 percent of them were for reconstruction of the existing infrastructure. He asked representatives of local self-governments to strive to identify the projects that contribute to economic development, so that the funds available through the European Progress program could be spent as efficiently as possible.  

Ana Stankovic, of the EU Delegation to Serbia, pointed out that the municipalities had to comply with the initial project implementation schedule and that all the delays caused in the beginning, including those in the payment of co-financing funds by the municipalities, might slow down the implementation of projects.

The representative of the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency in Serbia, Petar Vasilev, added that the implementation of projects had to include a certain degree of cooperation and that "donors need to be sure that a specific municipality is a good partner."

The meeting was chaired by the European Integration Office of the Serbian Government, while it was attended by representatives of the Ministries of the Republic of Serbia, municipalities participating in the implementation of the European PROGRESS program, representatives of development agencies and projects, civil society and donors - representatives of the European Union and the Government of Switzerland.

The European Union and the Government of Switzerland will support the activities of the European PROGRESS program, which contributes to the sustainable development of the southern and southwestern Serbia, with a total of 24.46 million euros. The approved projects will be aimed at strengthening local administration, creating a favorable environment for the development of infrastructure and economy as well as at improving the implementation of social inclusion and employment policy. The program is implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Central Finance and Contracts Unit at the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Serbia (CFCU).

The municipalities included by the program are as follows: Novi Pazar, Ivanjica, Nova Varos, Priboj, Prijepolje, Raska, Sjenica and Tutin in the southwest of Serbia, as well as Prokuplje, Blace, Zitoradja, Kursumlija, Leskovac, Bojnik, Vlasotince, Lebane, Medvedja, Crna Trava, Vranje Bosilegrad, Bujanovac, Vladicin Han, Presevo, Surdulica, Trgoviste, Brus, Aleksinac, Gadzin Han, Doljevac, Merosina, Svrljig, Babusnica, Bela Palanka and Knjazevac in the southeast of the country. 

Source: European Progress and Coordination Body

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