EU projects fair “EU and Serbia at work,“ organised by the EU Delegation to Serbia, Serbian European Integration Office (SEIO) and the City of Pirot, which showcases a part of EU assistance to South East Serbia was held at the Kej sports hall in Pirot.

Organisers of the Fair announced that the EU would financially support implementation of various infrastructure projects in 14 local self-governments in the region as part of the project “European partnership with municipalities“ within the European PROGRES programme. A delegation made up of deputy ambassadors of 14 European countries paid a visit to the Fair as part of their two-day visit to South East Serbia.

EU projects fair was launched by Oskar Benedikt the Acting Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Ksenija Milenkovic the Acting Director of the SEIO, Vladan Vasic the Mayor of Pirot and H.E. Radko Vlajkov Bulgarian Ambassador to Serbia.

“Pirot sets an excellent example of the efficient use of EU assistance. Pirot is one of the most successful municipalities when it comes to absorbing EU funds and implementing EU projects,“ said Oskar Benedikt, the Acting Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia while launching the Fair in Pirot. He reminded that the EU granted some EUR200 million to Serbia annually, adding that the assistance has reached EUR3 billion in the past 15 years.

Ksenija Milenkovic, the Acting Director of the SEIO, said that Serbia was rather successful in implementing projects and absorbing EU funding from the Serbia-Bulgaria cross-border cooperation programme. “Not counting the cross-border cooperation, multimillion support has also been provided through the European PROGRES programme, aimed at improving infrastructure in the South of the country, i.e. hospitals, schools and kindergartens and business areas. We have seized the opportunity today to award certificates for 14 new projects contracted in the framework of the IPA 2013 programme, the first to have been implemented under the decentralised management of EU funds,“ she said.

EU projects fair featured more than 40 on-going projects financially supported by the EU in this part of the country. The Fair focused mainly on projects implemented within the Serbia-Bulgaria CBC programme and actions within the European PROGRES programme which is frequently associated with this region, but it also provided information on other forms of EU support such as the assistance to SMEs, boosting job creation, support for socially vulnerable groups, etc.

Furthermore, the citizens had a chance to attend three debates and learn more about the benefits they could derive from various EU programmes participated in by Serbia. The debate dedicated to high school and university students dealt with EUS flagship education programme, Erasmus+, which allows students from Serbia to continue their education at European universities, while the representatives of local self-governments had a chance to learn more about a new programme to be launched in 2018, EU PRO, aimed at boosting competiveness and local development.

Before visiting the Fair, Oskar Benedikt, Acting Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia and deputy ambassadors of 14 European countries visited the medieval fortress Kale in Pirot whose reconstruction will be supported by the EU with EUR500,000.  On this occasion, Benedikt said that he was confident that Pirot would increase the tourist potential of the city and its surroundings thanks to reconstruction.

Deputy ambassadors also paid a visit to the Saint George Monastery in Temska and the Museum of Ponisavlje in Pirot.

The visitors of the Fair also had a chance to attend the exhibition EU for Serbia featuring a selection of photos which depict successful examples of Serbia-EU cooperation in various aspects of life – from education and support for local development, through environment and assistance for refugees and IDPs, to culture.

This is the fourth edition of the EU projects fair, an event organised by the EU Delegation to Serbia and the SEIO, with the support from local self-governments that host the Fair. So far, the Fair has been held in Belgrade, Nis and Zrenjanin.