Discussions aim to increase financial flows into environmental infrastructure
Environmental degradation is a global phenomenon, but concern and awareness about this problem is now growing in South-East Europe (SEE). The real question, however, is: 'How do broad environmental directives translate into meaningful environmental change?' In an effort to come up with some of the right answers, the SEE region draws support from an innovative European Commission-funded programme: the Priority Environmental Investment Programme (PEIP).
PEIP's broad mandate is to reduce pressure on the environment by increasing capacity for compliance with EU standards, and to identify feasible investment projects in the following constituent countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo 1244 as defined under UN administration.
Identifying, developing and implementing viable environmental investment infrastructure projects and funding them is achieved by prioritising strategic investment projects, developing sound project concepts, identifying donors and cash streams, and facilitating communication among stakeholders. The Regional Environmental Center (REC) serves as the general implementing body for PEIP. However, the implementation partner for Serbia is the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP).
This year, PEIP representatives from Serbia gathered at Hotel M in Belgrade from May 8-9 at a national workshop titled Developing Environmental Infrastructure Projects in the Water and Waste Sectors in Serbia.
The workshop featured panel discussions and 26 presentations on issues ranging from investment in project preparation to increasing the operational efficiency and service performance of public utilities and tariff reform. Each discussion aimed at increasing financial flows into environmental infrastructure projects in Serbia. The two-day event was also successful in meeting a critical objective to bring project proponents, representatives from national and local authorities — as well as IFIs and donor institutions — to the table to discuss mutual interests, needs and expectations.
What follows are some of the key conclusions that workshop participants reached: The strategic and legal framework for financing environmental infrastructure projects needs to be strengthened. Some strategies, plans and laws exist, while others have to be drafted, updated and/or enacted. National authorities, municipal authorities and public utility companies require further capacity building and assistance in preparing investment project documentation. Closing the strategic, legal and institutional capacity gap will also enable closing the financial gap. Donors, IFIs, and (particularly) private banks, will increase their fund channelling once they become confident about safe returns. Finally, financiers need clear information about 'national priority' projects, as well as which proposed projects are ripest for investment.