Improving Environmental Standards with EU Support

April 7, 2022

With the support of the European Union, reform in the water sector is being implemented in Serbia, which will contribute to improving efficiency in provision of water services. This was concluded during presentation of the new EU funded project "EU Support to Reforms in Water Sector Services" held in Belgrade, in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce on 7th April 2022.

The participants were greeted by Dalibor Joknić, Secretary of Association for communal services of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. He pointed out that there are many challenges and problems in the communal sector, but that projects like this can define problems in local self-governments and solve them strategically.

Introductory speeches were given by Vedrana Ilić, Assistant Minister, Sector for international cooperation and European integration, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management and Mr. Antoine Avignon, Program Manager of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia.

llic pointed out that the project "EU Support to Reforms in Water Sector Services" is extremely important not only because of development of very useful documents, but also because of its comprehensive benefits through consideration of all shortcomings and challenges that need to be overcome on the way to establishing adequate tariff policy in water sector in the Republic of Serbia.

"Through implementation of two components, the project will try to improve water price system in the Republic of Serbia by providing support in assessing state of service provision and drafting proposals to increase efficiency of water services and to implement requirements for cost recovery (including implementation of Tariffs Methodology) and establishment of a water pricing regulatory system.

Special attention will be paid to support implementation of tariff methodology at the local level in 20 pilot municipalities/cities - Pozega, Brus, Blace, Krusevac, Sokobanja, Sabac, Lebane, Loznica, Pancevo, Cacak, Uzice, Smederevo, Arilje, Kosjeric, Raska, Kraljevo, Nis, Vrsac, Subotica and Ivanjica", Ilic added.

Avignon reminded that reforms in the Republic of Serbia, with the support of the EU, are being implemented for the sake of the citizens, aiming to secure better quality of water, more efficient and better water services to citizens. He thanked the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, the Republic Water Directorate and the representatives of local self-governments for their joint engagement in implementation of the project. He emphasized that this reform is a long process and dialogue of all participants is necessary for its successful implementation.

Nataša Milić, Director of Republic Water Directorate, experts on the project as well as representatives of the Association for Water Technology and Sanitary Engineering also spoke at the event. Memorandum of Understanding were signed between the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management - Republic Water Directorate, local self-governments and public utility companies.

Over the next two years, in cooperation with state institutions, representatives of public utility companies from 20 local self-governments who attended the event, the project will directly contribute to the quality of life of Serbian citizens by improving the standards and efficiency of water-related services, performance of utility companies (including customer relations), and increased transparency and unified approach to tariffs, ensuring a fair costing methodology that can be used across the country. The goal of all these activities is to improve environmental standards in Serbia in accordance with the standards and best practices of EU member states.

In the negotiations on the EU membership, at the end of 2021 Serbia opened cluster 4 which includes four chapters, including environmental protection. The EU has so far invested more than 400 million euros in grants through numerous programmes and projects for environmental protection in Serbia.

With the support of the EU, wastewater treatment plants were built in Subotica, Sabac, Leskovac, Kula and Vrbas, and water supply systems were renewed in Pozarevac, Indjija and Petrovac na Mlavi. A completely new water supply system was built in Veliko Gradiste. In Rasina district, the regional water supply system in Krusevac, Aleksandrovac, Cicevac and Varvarin was renewed and built, while in Raska, in addition to the water supply system, a wastewater treatment system was built.

The most important EU act in the field of water is the Water Framework Directive, which has been in force since 2000 and whose goal is sustainable management of all waters and water related ecosystems in order to improve the health and well-being of citizens. The project "EU Support to Reforms in the Water Sector" is funded by the EU and managed by the Ministry of Finance, the Department for Contracting and Financing of EU Funded Programmes. The beneficiary of the project is the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management - Republic Water Directorate. The project is implemented by EPTISA Servicios de Ingenieria S.L. Spain in consortium with EPTISA Southeast Europe d.o.o. Serbia.