EU PRO Plus, a new European Union programme for local development, which aims to contribute to the overall social and economic development of 99 local self-governments 2 in the regions of Šumadija and Western Serbia and Southern and Eastern Serbia, has officially started today. The European Union has allocated 30 million Euros for this three-year programme that will focus its work on enhancing territorial development management, supporting economic growth, and improving social infrastructure and cohesion. The realisation of the EU PRO Plus will be led by the Ministry of European Integration, and will be implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services, UNOPS in Serbia.

The European Union has supported local development over the past decade and now EU PRO Plus introduces an integrated and sustainable approach to territorial development so the institutions and actors at national, regional and local levels will receive technical support to improve integrated planning capacity while projects in the field of competitiveness, infrastructure and social cohesion selected through public calls will be also supported.

“The programmes we have implemented so far have shown that together and with joint efforts we have managed not only to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic last year, but also to achieve what will be the aim of the EU PRO Plus programme in the upcoming period, and which is the goal of European integration – a better standard of living and the overall quality of life of every citizen in our country wherever they live and work in Serbia”, said Jadranka Joksimović, Minister of European Integration of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

As Joksimović added, balanced economic development is one of the priorities of the Government, but also an important topic in the accession process within cluster 5 – Resources, cohesion and and agricultural, and Chapter 22 within this cluster, which is related to regional policy and preparation for the use of the European Union structural instruments.

“Serbia has so far shown that it can use the European Union funds in a responsible, meaningful and transparent manner”, said Joksimović, adding that through EU PRO Plus, special focus will be on strengthening the capacity at the local where implementation actually begins, but also to fostering small business, entrepreneurs and especially vulnerable categories, women and young people to make the best use of all available resources and to create a sustainable present and a sustainable future.

“I will use this opportunity to invite all local self-governments, civil society organisations, entrepreneurs to follow the EU PRP Public public calls, to prepare good, competitive projects, and to absorb all available funds available in the next three years to strengthen local economic development”, said Minister Jadranka Joksimović.

The budget of 30 million Euros provided by the European Union will be focused on the improvement of social infrastructure and social cohesion, as well as on the improvement of business infrastructure and entrepreneurship.

“The EU PRO Plus Programme will, as its predecessor programmes, invest in infrastructure and facilitate improvement of the overall business environment in Southern Serbia aiming to boost the local economy”, said the Head of the European Union Delegation to Serbia, Ambassador Sem Fabrizi during the presentation of the new programme through which the EU continues its support to the Government of Serbia in its efforts to achieve sustainable growth and improve the quality of life and standard of living of the citizens of Serbia.

“EU PRO Plus will introduce an integrated approach to development applied by the EU countries, which ensures stability and sustainability of economic development,” said Ambassador Fabrizi, and especially invited the business community from cities and municipalities covered by the programme to consider opportunities that EU PRO Plus will offer as he said “we strongly believe that micro, small and medium size enterprises are the backbone of any modern economy. This is why the EU PRO Plus continues, in the footsteps of its predecessor programmes, to place focus on cultivation of a private sector led by entrepreneurs”.

“This project really embeds UNOPS vision in supporting the Government achieving sustainable development by strengthening local capacities, empowering them so that they can take on more projects, more responsibilities and achieve greater results”, Michela Telatin, Director of UNOPS Serbia Multi-Country Office said.

Telatin added that EU PRO Plus would benefit from expertise that UNOPS has gained during the last decades implementing projects on local development in Serbia, and would foster the already established partnership as a guarantee for achieving results.

The activities of the EU PRO Plus program, which contributes to a more balanced socio-economic development of Serbia, are supported by the European Union with 30 million euros. The program, implemented by the Ministry of European Integration, aims to contribute to improved management of territorial development, economic growth and improvement of social infrastructure and cohesion in 99 local self-government units, in two regions: Sumadija and Western Serbia and Southern and Eastern Serbia. Field activities are carried out by UNOPS.