A major potential is seen in the green economy in Serbia, calling for an interdisciplinary approach and a synergy of all stakeholders to build green capital, state officials and civil society and private sector representatives agreed at a panel discussion themed How to Become a (Green) Millionaire?, held as part of the GREEN FEST international festival in Belgrade.
As a moderator on behalf of the organizer, the Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Biodiversity (ORF-BD, GIZ), Kristina Kujundžić set the tone of the panel discussion by noting that the environment, which is ready to be a loyal partner, and sustainable development to which society must strive, are and must be a common goal.
All participants repeatedly highlighted the significance of civil society in efforts and results so far in the area of environmental protection, while Ivan Karić, state secretary at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, expressed his gratitude to civil society organizations (CSOs) for their dedication and diligence that has resulted in the establishment of a separate government ministry to handle this portfolio.
“Civil society organizations are independent, but are also in some way participating in the authorities’ work, as we are their eyes and ears – the first to see everything and then drive them to react,” said Milan Ružić of the Bird Study and Protection Society of Serbia.
Still, CSOs cannot act alone, which is why it is necessary for decision-makers, both at the local and national levels, to understand the importance of the environment and to continually work on adopting and implementing policies, said Valentina Đureta of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence.
The new relationship with the environment indicates the creation of new professions and new jobs, leaving the door widen open to green entrepreneurship. Milja Vuković of the InAkt association said that “a new form of life on the planet” is being created at the moment, as changes that have taken place over the past 50 years are unheard of since records began, meaning many new professions which we perhaps cannot even define yet, but which are needed.
The private sector, judging from cosmetics firm Koozmetik owners Jovana Antić and Daniela Stanković, is very open for work on environmental protection. “Nature still has many resources, and it is necessary to preserve them. At the same time, we must ask ourselves what it is we are giving to nature for nature to give us something back.”
Panelists unanimously condemned statements to the effect that environmental protection is only a cost – on the contrary, they believe that the opposite is true and that such objections merely serve to prove how much education is needed in the area.
“By introducing the principles of a circular economy, we at the ministry are headed in that direction – to prove that this is not a cost,” said State Secretary Karić. “The key goal is to try and regulate the environment in a way recognized by the EU and in a way recognized by Serbian citizens,” he said.
Karić added that there are difficulties with numerous EU directives concerning the opening of Chapter 27 of Serbia’s EU accession talks, which deals with the environment, and that it is currently expected the process will be launched in April. “If we are not sufficiently prepared, we will not open it at that time either, as we do not want to repeat mistakes some countries in the region made, and are now paying penalties.”
The panel attracted an exceptionally high number of attendees, confirming that there is strong interest in the green economy and possibilities offered by green entrepreneurship. The discussion was held as part of International Green Culture Festival GREEN FEST, organized by the ORF-BD project, which is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).