REC Serbia project workshop focuses on CSO activities in the field of the environment
Representatives of civil associations, financially supported through the “Environmental Civil Society Support Programme for Serbia” (CSOnnect) project, participated in the “Workshop on Accession Negotiations between the Republic of Serbia and European Union for Chapter 27”. The workshop took place during the last week of June in the village of Mokrin, north Vojvodina, Serbia. The goals of the workshop were to familiarise participants from civil society organisations (CSOs) with Serbia’s accession process to the European Union, and to provide information for CSOs on how to draft a negotiating position through dialogue with members of the Government of the Republic of Serbia Negotiating Team.
The workshop presenters spoke on the importance of Serbia’s accession to the EU, while providing key details of this important process. The presenters included Ola Andersson, Counsellor, Department for Sweden’s Development Cooperation with Serbia, Embassy of Sweden; Tanja Miscevic, PhD, Head of the Negotiating Team for the Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union; and Mirjana Drenovak- Ivanovic, PhD, member of the Negotiating Team for Chapter 27.
Ola Andersson expressed his support for cooperation with Serbia’s public and civil sector, and stated that the main purpose of a large share of the Swedish government’s financical support to Serbia is to address environmental issues.
”Sweden and the European Union are the largest donors to the Republic of Serbia in the area of environment reforms as part of our joint support to Serbia’s EU accession process,” Andersson said. “The Embassy of Sweden in Serbia cares to establish functional partnerships with the institutions of the Republic of Serbia as well as the civil society organisations. He added that “civil society has a very important role in monitoring dialogues between the Serbian institutions with the European Union,” and that solving issues in the field of environment represents “a burden which is shared between the state and the citizens.”
Andersson recognised the establishment of the new Ministry of Environment as a positive development, and he believes that it can make a positive contribution to Chapter 27 negotiations and help advance the implementation of environmental reforms in Serbia.
The head of the Negotiating Team for the Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union, Tanja Miscevic, talked about the complexity of the negotiating process and the large number of conditions to be met in order to begin, advance and make progress within the process. The number of benchmarks continues to grow, and as social conditions in the EU are in flux, even new benchmarks will need to be created.
“Chapter 27 is the one for which institutions will ask for the longest time frame, since it is the longest and the most demanding chapter, Miscevic explained, “but it is also necessary to create capacities at both the national and local levels — predominantly at the local level, which will lead the process of problem solving.”
Professor Miscevic indicated that “one important challenge would be to transform problems into benefits by applying the principle of circular economy and by exploiting the potential of recycling to generate investment and create new jobs. And while EU membership is important because it would provide Serbia with the opportunity to draw larger funds, the transition period is also very important because we have to use the maximum of allocated money from the pre-accession funds and donations that the state would receive through the bilateral funds.”
The head of the Negotiating Team then highlighted the role of civil society in monitoring the negotiating process, and recommended to the workshop participants that they make full use of the National Convention on the EU. She closed by expressing her support for CSOs that are working with the support of the CSOnnect programme, driving home the point that Serbia’s biggest internal problem and greatest challenge is to convey the urgent need to make important environmental changes.
Mirjana Drnovak-Ivanovic, a member of the Negotiating Team for Chapter 27, noted that Serbian statistics in the field of environment are quite poor, and that the country’s institutions face significant hurdles, namely: legal workload (almost one-third of all Serbian legislation is related to the environment); economic limitations (the estimated costs of adjustment to EU standards are around EUR 10.6 billion); and administrative lack of capacity (especially at the local government level).
“It takes many years to see the results, and we also need to involve a large number of actors—and not just institutions, but also industry, civil society organisations, and of course all the citizens who will support the reform process and the application of environmental legislation from the field of environment,” Professor Drenovak- Ivanovic said.
Milena Lazarevic, Programme Director of Centre for European Policy, talked to the Mokrin workshop participants about the preparation and realisation of public policies, and also about the demands stemming from EU accession process. Using the World Café methodology in the group working session, she assisted the participants in defining a priority topic in line with a pyramid of goals, mapping potential public policies in the field of environment, and creating an implementation plan for these policies.
After the workshop, there was a presentation on the key requirements of the European Union and the accession criteria for candidate countries, which helped to define the role of the civil sector within the negotiation process. The overall aim of the presentaion was to help organisations to position themselves properly as partners with national institutions and to assume the role of “watchdogs” for all phases of the process. Apart from obtaining useful information on the current status of Serbia’s negotiating position of the Republic of Serbia and further steps planned, the representatives of the organisations who gathered together through the CSOnnect programme were able to elaborate their own further environmental action plans during the group work.
The “Workshop on Accession Negotiations of the Republic of Serbia and the European Union for Chapter 27” was realised in the framework of the “Environmental Civil Society Support Programme for Serbia”, which is supported financially by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). This workshop was organised in partnership with the Centre for European Policy (CEP).