Creating a more compelling economic environment and contributing to Serbia’s successful socio-economic development are Serbian economic policy’s strategic objectives.
Within its European integration process, Serbia is implementing a slew of systemic reforms with a view to aligning with the European Union’s standards and norms, whose implementation will speed up the accession process.
As a country that has opened negotiating chapters, Serbia has access to the European Union’s IPA funds. The purpose of this non-repayable financial assistance is for Serbia to implement the reforms it needs on its path to the EU to achieve European standards in different areas, as well as to prepare structurally and strategically for the next level of assistance — structural funds, which offer far greater resources.
These existing IPA financial resources are important to be used on time, particularly for key infrastructure projects. In order to use these EU grants as best as possible, the Serbian Government prepared and adopted a document titled National Priorities for International Assistance (NAD) for the period 2014–2017, with projections until 2020.
In May 2018, the Ministry of European Integration — as the institution responsible for coordinating international development assistance — launched the process of drafting the new multi-year planning document for development assistance for the period 2019–2025.
The NAD is the starting point for negotiations with development partners, intended to precisely define the areas of cooperation and focus donor support on implementing the key socio-economic reforms, as well as on strengthening Serbia’s administrative and institutional capacities.
The document is one of the key instruments used by the Serbian Government to define its strategic developmental directions.
The new 2019–2025 NAD document framework proposes to finance priorities and measures from international funds in nine key sectors: public administration reform, judiciary, internal affairs, transportation, environment, energy, competitiveness, human resource and social development, agriculture, and rural development.
One of the NAD’s integral parts is an important document titled the Selection and Prioritisation Methodology for Infrastructure Projects. This document is the main tool for selecting infrastructure projects, allowing timely identification of priority projects that will be further financed from the EU IPA funds.
Infrastructure development is key for the socio-economic development of a country.
One of the key requirements for improving Serbian citizens’ quality of life is improving the infrastructure in energy, transportation, and the environment. Utility services — water supply, wastewater treatment, solid waste management, energy supply from renewable energy sources, good transport infrastructure — contribute to economic development and strengthen the economy in cities and regions.
Serbian municipalities are facing a number of developmental difficulties, one of the key issues being poor quality infrastructure and its management. This situation negatively affects the economic development, the inflow of foreign investments, and the level of quality of utility services.
Economic development involves stressing the importance of modern infrastructure and evenly developed and reliable transport system, as these greatly affect the development of entrepreneurship, better education conditions, agricultural production, product market placement, and many other areas that are crucial for the economy.
The strategic reforms implemented by Serbia also pertain to transport services — a reformed transport system that is in line with European standards and ensures smooth flow of goods/cargo and mobility of people at national and regional level is necessary for economic growth.
Furthermore, safe and reliable energy supply and stable energy sources are prerequisite for improving the citizens’ living standard, household functionality, and economic activities in general. Serbia’s national priorities in this area are to secure energy for the end-users at minimum prices, to invest in the energy infrastructure, and to secure investments for the integration of Serbia’s energy market into the European single energy market — a Trans-European Network. Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are key for sustainable development in the energy sector.
Serbia is already in the process of aligning with EU standards concerning environmental protection, which is covered by one of the most expensive chapters — Chapter 27.
Serbia will have hands full of work — around 700 European acts are to be implemented in the environmental protection sector, and its environmental image is to be improved. The European legislation is currently being transposed into the national legislation that focuses around the issues of pollution, clean energy sources, and better environmental protection.
It is no coincidence that the Serbian Government and the EU are focusing on investing in the social, economic, and environmental infrastructure — ongoing EU investments in this infrastructure will generate additional economic growth in a way that is modern and sustainable, for the benefit of Serbia’s people and improving Serbia’ s image abroad.
Preparation of infrastructure projects is very demanding and it requires certain documentation for the project to become ready for financing.
For example, appropriate spatial planning documents, certain technical documentation required to ensure that facilities are connected to the existing infrastructure network or, legally clear issues such as determining ownership of land that includes the zone of project construction itself — all these are the elements used to assess whether the project will be evaluated and prioritised for funding. One of the assessment’s important elements is the institutional capacity of the line ministry proposing the project.
Implementing infrastructure projects requires a fully prepared set of technical and bidding documentation that must be produced in accordance with the national laws (e.g., Law on Planning and Construction), as well as with the requirements and standards applicable in the European Union. The preparation of this documentation is a very complex process, which is why it is necessary to secure assistance to the line ministries and state institutions responsible for its preparation.
The European Union Project Preparation Facility programme (EU PPF) is a technical assistance worth EUR 21 million funded from EU pre-accession funds. The EU is donating EUR 19.7 million, while EUR 1.29 million is coming from the Government of the Republic of Serbia. Among other things, the programme is intended to strengthen the technical and administrative capacities of the Republic of Serbia’s administration in managing and using EU pre-accession funds, in order to speed up Serbia’s process of preparing for membership in the European Union.
The EU PPF is focused on preparation of technical and tender documentation for infrastructure projects related to energy, environment and transport sectors, as well as on organization more than 70 capacity-building trainings for representatives of relevant local and national institutions. With the assistance provided through the EU PPF programme, the necessary documentation for 15 major projects in the field of transport, energy and environment is under preparation. Specific task within the scope of the EU PPF is structural adjustment and update of the Document on Needs of the Republic of Serbia for International Assistance 2014-17 with projections until 2020. To this end, EU PPF supports the Ministry of EU Integration and the responsible line ministries in the programing of pre-accession funds for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 and the development of a new NAD for Serbia 2019 – 2025 to structure the foreign assistance requirements of the Republic of Serbia.
The EU PPF programme is managed by the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Finance (Department of Contracting and Financing of European Union Funded Programmes, or CFCU). The Ministry of European Integration is the programme’s key beneficiary, monitoring the technical and administrative implementation of the programme. The beneficiaries of the EU PPF programme’s technical assistance also include many line ministries: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management (and Directorate for Water), Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Mining and Energy, Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Economy, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Technical assistance means that a programme involves a team of international and local experts coming from a plethora of fields, having the required knowledge and skills that they are able to transfer to the programme’s beneficiaries. The infrastructure projects that the technical assistance focuses on within the EU PPF programme are selected against pre-determined requirements by the representatives of line ministries assisted by EU PPF experts. The selected infrastructure projects — and the preparation of technical and bidding documentation for them — are at the centre of the technical assistance.
With the aid of the EU PPF programme, all the required documentation is prepared for 15 major projects in transport, energy, and environment, exceeding EUR 850 million in value. These projects’ implementation will be financed from EU funds in the upcoming period.
- EU PPF6 Project Unit: Seven projects in the energy and environmental sectors
- EU PPF7 Project Unit: Two projects in the environmental sector
- EU PPF8 Project Unit: Six projects in transport and environmental sectors.
The cities and municipalities included in the EU PPF infrastructure projects are: Loznica, Pančevo, Kraljevo, Brus, Blace, Sokobanja, Kragujevac, Užice, Arilje, Požega, Kosjerić, Ivanjica, Aranđelovac, Knić, Rekovac, Belgrade, Kladovo, Velika Plana, Paraćin, Stalać, Đunis, Niš, and Brestovac.
The capacity building component of the EU PPF training programme will enable at least 1,500 participants to complete the necessary trainings and improve their knowledge:
- EU PPF6 Project Unit: 20 one-day training courses — around 500 participants
- EU PPF7 Project Unit: 21 one-day training courses — around 500 participants
- EU PPF8 Project Unit: 26 one-day training courses — around 500 participants
The EU PPF7 Project Unit will specifically produce the following documentation:
- Social infrastructure project prioritisation system ‘Consolidated list of priority projects in social infrastructure’.
- All programme documents required for the planning and coordination of IPA funds for the period 2018–2019, as well as for the year 2020.
The National Priorities for International Assistance (NAD) document — for the period 2014–2017, with projections until 2020 — is fully updated and modified to cover the period from 2019 to 2025.
The line ministries, national agencies, and relevant public (utility) companies (PUCs), local authorities, non-governmental organisations, and other sectoral organisations play an important role in the process of infrastructure project preparation — they provide the required input data needed to prepare the required documentation.
In partnership with the EU PPF programme’s expert team, their capacities and knowledge will be strengthened — either through training or through the very process of preparing the required documentation — aiming to make the project ready for implementation stage.
The training courses are designed to enable them to independently handle the preparation of technical and bidding documentation for other infrastructure projects in the future.
In addition to the trainings related to the preparation of project documentation, there are trainings provided by the EU PPF expert team that focus on specific aspects of the functioning of certain infrastructure facilities.
The EU PPF programme also includes Supervisory Boards that manage its implementation.
They are mainly responsible for:
- Selection of projects that will be involved in documentation preparation through the EU PPF programme;
- Overseeing the implementation of the EU PPF programme and approval of project reports;
- Monitoring the cooperation between the state institutions involved in the EU PFF project implementation and the experts from EU PPF teams;
- Providing strategic support in resolving issues that have an impact on the project’s implementation;
- Monitoring the coordination with other EU projects in the same area, as well as with other relevant donors, striving to achieve the required synergy and linking the ongoing projects.