„One region – one market“ – Western Balkans countries joining forces to reach the goal

A two-day regional conference “One Region – One Market” was organized on 21 and 22 December, by the European Affairs Fund in cooperation with the National Alliance for Local Economic Development, Regional Youth Leadership Forum, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Vojvodina Chamber of Commerce, with the support of the City of Novi Sad.

The topics of this year's conference aimed to encourage and initiate a dialogue on challenges, potential solutions and activities that would help local authorities become more involved in the EU accession process and thus be able to absorb EU funds aimed at socio-economic development. The participants also discussed the strengthening of local education system and digitization at the local level.

The conference that brought together young entrepreneurs who contribute to regional market development and increased competitiveness in the European framework, also included an open session of the Business Friendly Environment Club of Cities and Municipalities in Serbia. The session was attended by decision-makers from BFC cities and municipalities that have appropriate capacities and are strategically determined to improve the business environment, attract investments and encourage the development of local economy, as well as the representatives of certified cities and municipalities from the region, primarily Montenegro and Republic of Srpska (BiH), while a special guest was the Minister of European Integration, Tanja Miščević. Participants had the opportunity to talk with her about EU integration and the importance of EU funds for the development of local governments.

The session was chaired by the Mayor of Niš and the president of BFC Club, Dragana Sotirovski, who pointed out that environmental protection, digitization, smart system, energy transition, increasing competitiveness, promotion of local potentials, revitalization of existing facilities and construction of communal and road infrastructure are the biggest challenges in municipalities and cities in Serbia. She added that the budget projection for the City of Niš for 2023 is 13.5 billion dinars, which is significantly less than the budget of Belgrade or Novi Sad. Therefore, the EU funds that provided the city of Niš with a financial injection of 12 million euros in the past couple of years have greatly contributed to the development of the city.

After the conference, the panel participants and guests from the region had the opportunity to participate in a working lunch with the Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, where they presented their opinions and views regarding the implementation of key reforms that will contribute to faster European integration.



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