Serbia can make a big leap both in practice and political aspect in the field of environment, Minister of Environmental Protection of Serbia Goran Trivan said stressing the importance of civil society and the media in this process. He announced that the newly established Ministry of Environmental Protection will be more open to the civil society.
Trivan estimated that Serbia is not starting from scratch in the field of environment and that 25 years of legging behind can be overcome if it does not repeat the mistakes made by developed countries along the way. He estimated that it is a good time for Serbia to integrate and apply all the international and European experiences in the best way possible.
“We are not starting from scratch, but we are moving forward, to make Serbia cleaner, healthier and more ecological than it is today,” he said at the meeting of the National Convention on the EU and the Negotiating Group for Chapter 27.
However, there are still serious problems that need to be resolved. “Serbia is not polluted to the extent that we have to activate alarms, but we are not far from it,” Trivan said.
Closer ties and cooperation with civil society
The newly founded Ministry of Environmental Protection of Serbia will be much more open to civil society, and the new minister will seek to allocate more money for the civil sector. “I want to hear your opinion in the Ministry, not through the media,” he said, adding that the ministry shouldn’t allocate less funds to the NGOs than the local governments, which was sometimes the case.
Trivan also considers that the Ministry of Environmental Protection should have its own building built according the green building principles and announced that he will work on it. The Minister also said he had objections to the budget, but that he cannot speak publicly about it yet, hoping that the outcome will be positive.
Trivan thanked the civil society for the positive pressure that has contributed to the establishment of a separate ministry in charge for environment, while Nataša Đereg from the National Convention expressed hope that the ministry would succeed in “raising the level and role of the environment” in different spheres of life.
“Serbia has no time to wait for the implementation of laws in this area,” she said, adding that it is necessary to introduce more stringent inspection and penal policy, support the transparent work of the Green Fund, and that the number of employees in charge for the environment in the public administration, especially in the local ones, shouldn’t be reduced.
Chapter 27 most demanding one in EU accession process
Serbia is preparing the negotiating position for Chapter 27, one of the most demanding chapters in EU accession negotiation, both in terms of the number of laws and funds that will have to be invested to reach the EU standards.
A draft negotiating position is prepared and the first round of the public debate has been held. The plan is to submit the negotiating position for the final adoption by the end of 2017 and then to send it to the European Commission, which will also be consulted in the drafting process.
Serbia’s goal is to align its legislation in the field of environment with the EU legislation by the end of 2018, and to achieve this the ministry is obliged to prepare 94 legal acts, Head of the Negotiating Group for Chapter 27 Stana Božović said at the meeting.
Serbia has also started to prepare specific implementation plans for eight directives for which it will ask longer periods for implementation. The plans will also include projections of implementation costs which will help create clearer picture of the overall cost of alignment in the field of the environment.
The first projections has showed that Serbia will need around EUR 10 billion, but minister Trivan said that without EUR 15 billion it will not be possible to do the job.
Challenges with financing
Serbia has established the Green Fund at the end of 2016. Since then it has not actually become operational, yet Milan Stevanović from the Ministry of Environmental Protection said that the Ministry has been working on creation of the by-laws . Once adopted, they are to provide the pre-condition for the call to finance waste and wastewater management projects.
Within EU IPA 2014-2020 Serbia can dispose with EUR 160 million for the environment, while upon becoming an EU member that amount can reach around EUR 4 billion, which is less than 50 percent of financing needed.
Therefore, Stevanović said, Serbia will have to secure financing from other sources such as national financing, private investments, investments through public-private partnerships, concessions and long-term infrastructure loans.
At the moment, Serbia allocates around 0.25 percent of its GDP for environment, seven times less then neighboring countries and 10 times less than the EU.