The EU is by far the biggest donor to Serbia with more than €2.6 billion (as of January 2014) in grants provided over the past 13 years in all fields, ranging from rule of law, public administration reform, social development, environment and agriculture. The financial assistance is provided through EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) which aims to help Serbia to prepare for assuming and effectively implementing obligations of its future membership in the EU. EU Member States provided substantial bilateral assistance too.
In fact Serbia is one of the biggest recipients of EU funds in the world. It is the biggest recipients of EU funds from the whole region of the Western Balkans with 200 million Euros per year. The EU invested in Serbia’s transport infrastructure (Sloboda, Zezelj and Gazella bridges, roads and border crossings), health care (ambulance cars, mammographs, medical waste treatment), air and water quality, solid waste (Subotica, Sremska Mitrovica, Uzice, Pozerevac), accessing EU programmes such as Erasmus and reforming the public administration to deliver better services to citizens. In recent years support is increasingly oriented towards preparations for EU membership.
A mark of special trust between us is that in 2014 Serbia takes over management of EU funded projects. There are currently over 600 on-going projects under implementation covering a wide range of sectors for the overall benefit of Serbian citizens. Most of these projects are smoothly implemented and have the full commitment of the Serbian authorities and final beneficiaries.
On 23 December 2013, the European Commission adopted the 2013 national programme for Serbia under IPA. The €178.7 million programme helps Serbia implement reforms in key areas such as rule of law, public administration, social inclusion, private sector development, transport, environment, energy and agriculture. These reforms are crucial elements of the country’s European integration process and will directly improve the daily lives of Serbian citizens.
The programme helps Serbia in the area of rule of law by supporting the implementation of national strategies for the fight against corruption, improving the prison system and strengthening the independence and competence of the judicial system. Funds are also used to strengthen the efficiency of the Serbian customs administration and border control facilities.
The funds also go to improve the capacity of the public administration at central and local levels by developing the country’s public finance management and public procurement. In addition, 34 municipalities in South and South West Serbia are specifically encouraged to develop local governance capacities, conditions for business and infrastructure development and support the implementation of social inclusion and employment policies.
The development of the private sector is supported through measures that improve the environment for doing business in Serbia, increase the competitiveness of Serbian enterprises and support investment in research and innovation. In the area of transport, navigation conditions on the Danube will be improved.
On top of the 2013 national IPA programme, EU funds for Serbia are also available through the Civil Society Facility (€2.5 million), TEMPUS programme (€4 million), and funds for refugees under the Regional Housing Programme (€12 million).
Under IPA II for 2014-2020, the European Commission together with Serbian authorities is focusing on the fact that only strategically important and mature projects will be considered for funding under the sectoral approach. The Serbian authorities need to create the legal and institutional structures that allow to more efficiently and effectively absorb EU and other donor funds (including loans by international financial institutions), especially in infrastructure projects.