Vojvodina European Office in Brussels: Experience of Vojvodina for more efficient regional cooperation with Macedonia

Within the framework of cooperation between the Vojvodina European Office in Brussels and Norwegian partner, who are funding the project on training and specialisation course for the administration of Macedonia, a training session was held at the Vojvodina European Office in Brussels on 14 March. The target group involved 30 representatives of Macedonian ministries, cities, municipalities, development agencies and institutions working in the field of European sectoral policies. In his speech, Predrag Novikov, head of Vojvodina European Office, presented the priorities of regional and development policy of Vojvodina and pointed out the importance of establishing regional relations that formed the basis for tighter economic and institutional relations, as well as better use of European funds. The Autonomous Province (AP) of Vojvodina, through the European Affairs Fund, is a member of a number of European organisations, from Paris and Salzburg to Brussels and Berlin, whilst cooperation with a lot of European regions has been enhanced in recent years. “Therefore, no one should be surprised that in a short period of time, we have raised the capacity to use European funds from a single-digit number to a three-digit one on an annual basis , with a level of use of funds over 95%, which is almost unrecorded result in South-East Europe“, said Predrag Novikov. The experience of Vojvodina has shown that it is of major significance for successful use of EU development funds to make strategic decisions on investing into the preparation of administration and engagement of all stakeholders at regional and local level, so that they could apply for funds that are not that easily reachable. It is of special importance to have more efficient and faster harmonization of legal and financial regulations with EU standards. The final link in the chain is the engagement of local authorities and municipalities that should plan support to local stakeholders, from public utility companies to institutions in the field of sport, culture, youth etc., in their development budgets in order for them to have necessary co-financing and pre-financing.

“Good intention is needed, but it is not sufficient. It must be followed by clear regulatory decisions and clear profilisation of institutions working in this field. The experience of the European Affairs Fund that is coordinating an important part of European initiatives in our province relies on clear partnerships with local development agencies, chambers of commerce, universities, NGOs, as well as on direct communication with cities and municipalities. The only way to invest into the future and open new development opportunities for the whole society is to have full partnerships. Our projects, which are currently being evaluated, were developed and submitted under calls for proposals several years ago, and therefore, it is necessary to be patient, methodical and persistent in this work“, added Novikov. Vividly describing, Predrag Novikov said: “When you plant a vineyard, you don’t ask after three months where the grape is, but you take care of the seedling, so that it could produce fruit even decades later. The work of Vojvodina European Office in Brussels is based on this, since it methodically and meaningfully builds the foundations for profiling our province as a safe, stable and predictable partner “.

Moreover, the lecture touched upon the perspective of enhancing the cooperation among administrations along the Danube, within the Danube strategy, where AP Vojvodina had clear priorities in the area of stronger economic networking, support to project and water management, use of energy resources and stronger networking of institutions in the field of education, culture, tourism, etc. The guests from Macedonia showed great interest in the implementation of high standards related to minorities and communities, whereas the Vojvodina European Office in Brussels was invited to continue providing assistance in enhancing cooperation and to pay a visit to Macedonia in the future.