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The USA cares for Serbia's success in European integration

July 08 2019 | Belgrade

The USA cares for Serbia's success in European integration

The United States of America has provided an additional $ 20.8 million to assist Serbia in reforms in the area of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and media freedom, as well as for strengthening the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises and local economic development.

This has been made possible by amendments to the Assistance Agreement between Serbia and the US regarding better functioning of administration and more competitive market economy. The amendments have been signed by Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović and Director of the United States Agency for International Development in Serbia (USAID) Mike de la Rosa, in the presence of US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott.

Joksimović has said that, in recent years, Serbia has had unequivocal and continuous US support to reforms, especially through USAID which is very active in Serbia, as well as under the auspices and with the support of the US Embassy and Ambassador Kyle Scott.

She has recalled that, at the reception on the occasion of the Independence Day, Ambassador Scott said that the US is a friend and partner of Serbia on its European path.

The Minister has said that, in recent years, through numerous agreements on donations for reforms in the field of the rule of law, the fight against corruption, media freedom, and strengthening the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises and local development, the United States has proven to be an active partner in Serbia’s reform process, which is an important part of the European integration process.

Joksimović has stressed that by signing two amendments to the existing Financial Agreement, the US and USAID have made $ 20.8 million available in the field of the rule of law, with a focus on fight against corruption and media freedom, as well as for strengthening the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises and local economic development, particularly for strengthening the competitiveness of fruit and vegetable processing companies and their export potentials.

She has stressed that, as regards the fight against corruption, the beneficiaries of these funds have been and will continue to be the State Audit Institution, the Anti-Corruption Agency, the local self-governments, and prosecution departments dealing with this issue.

"I think that this is a concrete and significant assistance from the United States, which will, in cooperation with ministries, local self-governments and the Serbian Development Agency, really contribute to the reforms that are important for our European path," Joksimović has said.

She has stressed that Serbia's relations with the United States are often perceived by the public only through certain, sometimes heavy political issues, where we tend to sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, but that the fact remains that the United States is one of the largest bilateral donors to Serbia in terms of supporting the reform process.

"The United States is a continuous partner in this process and, as Ambassador Scott had recently said, the United States is a friend and companion in our European integration process, which is growing ever more complex while the circumstances are changing. However, our will for reforms remains constant, as does our will for economic development, which has already yielded results, and I hope that it will be supported by the United States in the future as well. I also hope that there will be significant progress in the sector of the rule of law and in the legislative framework, in the same way we have set up economic reforms and truly achieved the results that everyone can witness. Of course, this is an area where you always have to do more - even when you do become an EU Member State, you will have to work on it," Joksimović has said.

She has stated that these are the matters that will be in focus and for which Serbia receives concrete assistance.

Joksimović has stressed that, since 2014 and under the auspices of the US Embassy and USAID, she has personally signed nearly US $ 75 million in US grants for reform processes - the rule of law and economic development of Serbia.

"These are not loans nor credits, but concrete grants," Joksimović has stressed, thanking Ambassador Scott and Director of USAID – an organization that has been working with important institutions in Serbia, civil society and other partners from various fields for many years.

She has emphasized that such a way of support indeed clearly shows that the United States sincerely supports Serbia on its European path.

Ambassador Kyle Scott has said that the US today provides an additional $ 20.8 million through USAID, which is intended as support to greater competitiveness of the Serbian economy, strengthening the rule of law, better operation of the government, better media environment and fight against corruption.

"This is a new tranche that adds to the $ 1 billion assistance that the United States has already donated since 2001. These projects have directly improved the lives of Serbian citizens," Scott has stressed.

Scott has said that Serbia's goal is to become a member of the EU, which is, as he has stressed, the goal of the United States as well.

"In the United States there is a saying similar to a Serbian one – you get what you pay for. That's why these $ 20 million, in addition to the $ 1 billion we have already provided, are a sign that we care about your success," Scott has stressed, adding that it is neither a credit nor a loan arrangement, but a direct assistance to the citizens.

He has stressed that the US truly wishes success to Serbia and for it to take its deserved place in the European community of nations.

"This will require work and will, but you have friends along this path," the US Ambassador has said.

He has said that, in cooperation with the Serbian government, financial institutions and civil society, the funds provided by the USA and USAID help to establish a robust and sustainable system of support for the growth of the private sector in Serbia.

"As a result, sale and export of Serbian food products have increased, quality of Serbian agricultural products has been improved, and farmers and cattle breeders have been allowed access to new markets. In addition, amendments to the Law on Enforcement and Security have been introduced to accelerate and direct the execution of court judgments, provide clear guidelines for the conduct of public enforcement officers, improve the supervision and control of public enforcement officers, and create a more transparent procedure for the sale of real estate for the purpose of debts settlement," said the Ambassador.

Scott has stressed that, at the level of local self-governments, USAID and USA assistance has been aimed at supporting local authorities in seven Serbian cities to develop a plan of anti-corruption measures, introduce more transparent management, and more actively cooperate with citizens, as well as to implement mechanisms for the protection of whistleblowers.

Source: Tanjug