European PROGRES is a multi-donor Programme, financed by the European Union (EU), the Government of Switzerland and the Government of Serbia, designed to support sustainable development in the South East and South West Serbia. The Programme has been conceptualised jointly with the European Integration Office of the Government of the Republic of Serbia (SEIO), which has responsibility for monitoring implementation and providing assistance and facilitation. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has been granted with an initial budget of 17.46 million Euros and has the overall responsibility for the Programme implementation.
Through a multi-sector approach this Programme will contribute to sustainable development of underdeveloped areas and creation of more favourable environment for infrastructure and business growth by strengthening local governance, improving vertical coordination, planning and management capacities, improving business environment and development, as well as enhancing implementation of social inclusion and employment policies.
The Programme works towards achieving four main results, while good governance principles are interwoven as a cross cutting aspect of the entire intervention:
1. Strengthened local governance, planning and management capacities through introduction of new, or improvement/elimination of existing procedures and processes in line with the principles of good governance
2. Increased competitiveness of local economy through improved business environment and management/organizational capacities of small and medium enterprises/agricultural cooperatives
3. Improved access to employment, offering equal opportunities to both men and women, and social inclusion of most vulnerable and marginalised groups through development and implementation of local policies resulting in reduced migration from South East and South West Serbia
4. Effects of Serbia’s European accession communicated to general public.
Final beneficiaries, but also the key stakeholders and financial contributors of this Programme are 34 municipalities from the third and fourth group of development level, which have responsibility of taking ownership of activities implemented in their territory:
Novi Pazar, Ivanjica, Nova Varoš, Priboj, Prijepolje, Raška, Sjenica and Tutin, in the South West Serbia
Prokuplje, Blace, Žitorađa, Kuršumlija in the Toplica District
Leskovac, Bojnik, Vlasotince, Lebane, Medveđa and Crna Trava in the Jablanica District
Vranje, Bosilegrad, Bujanovac, Vladičin Han, Preševo, Surdulica and Trgovište in the Pčinja District
Brus in Rasinska District
Aleksinac, Gadžin Han, Doljevac, Merošina and Svrljig in Niški District
Babušnica, Bela Palanka in Pirotski District
Knjaževac in Zaječarski District.
Other beneficiaries include municipality-founded institutions and public utility companies, civil society organisations (CSO) and media in the participating municipalities. It is the inhabitants of the South East and South West Serbia who will feel the benefits of the Programme. This Programme will have direct effect on beneficiary municipalities in a variety of sectors: good governance as cross-cutting and with specific result activities, education, employment, infrastructure and economic development. New and improved economic infrastructure will enable creation of jobs and promote sustainable economic development. An emphasis on inter-municipal projects, in particular the common economic development exercises, will enhance mutual cooperation and trust between ethnic groups and factions.
The Programme will contribute to strengthened competitiveness of participating areas, making them more attractive to foreign and domestic investment and less prone to deterring factors. It should thereby serve to help reduce the widening disparities between regions in the country, improving cohesion and stability on the national level. The reduction of unemployment will also help enhance intra-regional social cohesion and promote stability locally. Attention to employment that takes into account equal opportunities for men and women, and keeps environmental concerns in mind can help build awareness of the regions’ unique characteristics and potential for tourism. This is not only a prospective growth industry, but can assist in forming a more positive regional identity that can inspire youths to remain and develop their regions rather than seek their careers in other regions or countries.
The Programme will contribute to good local governance by providing specific support to the local self-governments endeavouring to improve their organisational structures which would internally enhance concrete application of the five good governance principles, thus making the municipality, including the local administration, more accountable, transparent and efficient in providing services to the citizens. Good Governance projects linked to the infrastructure project are an integral part of this program.