An agreement was signed in Belgrade on March 1, 2018, on the continuation of the successful CSOnnect programme.
With the signing of an institutional grant agreement under the Environmental Civil Society Support Programme for Serbia (CSOnnect), the REC has entered the final year of programme implementation. Eleven consortia, comprising a total of 64 civil society organisations (CSOs) from all over Serbia, will implement a second phase of institutional grants. Financial support for the programme is provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the total funding for CSOs, as a follow-up to the institutional support, is EUR 413,000.
Opening the signing event, Ruza Radovic, director of REC Serbia, emphasised the important role of civil society in the challenging momentum of the upcoming opening of Chapter 27 in the accession negotiations between Serbia and the European Union. She added that the overall goal of the CSOnnect programme and the Government of Sweden is to strengthen CSOs and enable them to take a leading role in environmental protection.
Ola Andersson, of the Development Cooperation Section of the Embassy of Sweden in Serbia, pointed out that Sweden supports Serbia's European integration through annually distributed funds amounting to EUR 12 million, and that environmental protection is a priority field. Civil society has an important role to play, both in closely monitoring Serbia's progress in the field of environmental protection, and in acting as a partner in the dialogue with the EU.
Srdjan Stankovic, adviser to the minister of environmental protection in charge of cooperation with civil society, noted the goodwill on the part of the state authorities with respect to cooperation with civil society, while acknowledging that there are communication gaps still to be overcome. In addition, he stated that his goal is to encourage effective dialogue on concrete solutions to specific issues, especially in relation to Chapter 27.
Based on the signed institutional grants, CSO activities will cover a wide range of topics relevant to environmental protection. Significant results are expected in the field of horizontal legislation, nature protection, climate change, waste and water resources management, agricultural waste management and civil protection. Importantly, CSOs receiving grants under the CSOnnect programme will carry out their activities at local, regional and national level.
The REC is implementing the CSOnnect programme to support and strengthen CSOs that can potentially play a leading role in addressing key environmental challenges. Additionally, the REC helps organisations in their efforts to contribute to the negotiation process under Chapter 27 and to establish dialogue with institutions in the Republic of Serbia and with the European Union.