Information News

J. Joksimović: Goal – reduction of regional inequality in Serbia

October 01 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Goal – reduction of regional inequality in Serbia

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has initiated today’s talks about sustainable regional development in Serbia and the connection between regional development and EU cohesion policy, whose main goal is to contribute to the reduction of regional inequality and democratisation of development.

According to her, one of the examples of such strategic commitment is the initiation of the project of modernisation of Belgrade–Niš railway.

“The effects of such a policy could be seen yesterday during the visit of EC President Ursula von der Leyen to Serbia, when we marked the beginning of the modernisation and revitalisation of railway Corridor 10”, said Joksimović at a conference session held in Belgrade under the title ‘New European framework for reviewing regional development policy in the Republic of Serbia’, which is part of a project realised by the Institute for Political Studies.

According to her, the project of the revitalisation and modernisation of the railway line was the best way to combine several aspects of the new methodology and financial instruments.

“On one hand, railway traffic is particularly supported in Europe and it will be supported even more in the future as the cleanest, the safest and the most efficient form of passenger and goods transport”, said the Minister, emphasising that the project, which is significant for entire Europe, was initiated by Serbia.

She has recalled that the project will cost EUR 60 million, of which EUR 45 million will be provided from grants, and the rest will be co-financed by Serbia. The Minister has stressed that this important project is an example of how to combine clusters 4 and 5, i.e. Green Agenda and cohesion.

“For us, the project of the revitalisation and modernisation of the railway has a third dimension – it supports internal regional development, as the modernised railway will revitalise the entire part of Serbia covered by Corridor 10 and make it more interesting both for investments and innovation hubs, young people will be able to get to work in a faster and cheaper way if they have to commute”, said the Minister.

Joksimović has stressed that in 2015 and 2016 Serbia had a high level of realisation of projects financed from pre-accession funds (99.9%), because it had established the necessary mechanisms on time.

These will be public data in two years, as the realisation of projects lasts five or six years, and they are published by the European Commission and the EU Delegation, on one hand, and by the Ministry of Finance and MEI, on the other.

Joksimović has stressed that it is important to have a sustainable, clearly framed umbrella policy of sustainable regional development in Serbia.

“All this will spark the domestic regional development, as well”, said the Minister who wanted to address the subject of regional policy from that aspect, given that Serbia is now using pre-accession funds.

“We must be ready and institutionally prepared to follow the developments in the EU cohesion policy when we become a member in five or six years, and to develop instruments, so that we would be able to absorb much larger funds that are available to member states”, said the Minister.

The Minister has stated that it is often heard that Bulgaria has received EUR 42 billion from the EU, adding that Serbia would also get that much if it were a member state.

“They have received it because they are an EU member that makes payments to the budget, and according to the EU cohesion policy, as long as a member state is below the European average in development and growth, it will withdraw more funds.”

“It’s been proven that many countries were not sufficiently prepared when they became members and did not use the enormous funds that were available to them. We don’t want this to happen to us, which is why we have been strengthening and will continue to strengthen our capacities through IPA perspectives and funds”, said the Minister.

Joksimović has expressed her satisfaction with the results of the latest public opinion poll, which shows that 45% of Serbian citizens know that the EU is the largest donor, and that 50% of them know about at least one EU-funded project in Serbia.

She has also expressed her belief that the important law on cohesion policy will soon start being drafted by MEI.

“It is tightly linked to the 2009 Law on regional development which is quite outdated. Serbia was not even a candidate for EU membership then nor had it started negotiations, so the legislative framework must be adjusted to our progress in the EU accession process”, said the Minister.

Source: Tanjug