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17. April 2013.

Today, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed at the Government of Serbia, which is to contribute to the solving of the problem of unemployment and underdevelopment in the southern and southwestern Serbia, through the strengthening of the small and medium-sized enterprises.

The said Memorandum was signed by the Minister of Regional Development and Local Self- government Verica Kalanović, the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby, the Director of the USAID in Serbia Susan Fritz, and the Director of the National Agency for Regional Development Ivica Eždenci.

Minister Kalanovic pointed out that the agreement was a confirmation of successful cooperation between the Government of Serbia and the United States and that it would contribute to the solving of major problems in the south and southwest of the country, which were large regional disparities and unemployment.

The activities envisaged by the Memorandum will be implemented in 12 municipalities, which include Vranje, Leskovac, Presevo, Bujanovac, Medvedja, Raska, Novi Pazar, Sjenica, Tutin, Priboj and Nova Varos. She stressed that those municipalities were the best choice because they had the highest unemployment rate in Serbia. The support includes technical and financial assistance, the project will be implemented directly by the USAID and the Government of Serbia, while the exact amount of funds for this purpose hasn’t been committed yet.  

Minister Kalanović praised the USAID because, as she said, it didn’t respond when it was suitable to it, but when the problems were the greatest. The U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Michael Kirby, said that the cooperation between the USAID and the Government of Serbia used a completely new approach, which would show in the future that it was better than the previous one, as the Serbian authorities, upon completion of the projects, would have strengthened capacities to help the citizens. According to him, the Government of Serbia, would, in the next two years, strengthen its capacities, while the people in the south of the country would improve their small and medium-sized enterprises and their economic situation. When asked by journalists about the amount of the financial aid in question, Ambassador Kirby responded that it was a multi-million amount, while Mrs. Fritz said that it was originally planned to use six to seven million dollars. However, both of them noted that the amount was subject to change, as it would depend on the budget approved by the Congress.

Мr. Eždenci pointed out that today's agreement was the first step towards a contract for development projects in southern and southwestern Serbia, saying that it was the first time in Europe that a national institution implemented such projects, which were, through the USAID, funded by the United States. He noted that the earnings in the municipalities covered by this Memorandum were lower than the average in the Republic of Serbia and twice lower than in Belgrade.

Source: Tanjug