Distinguished representatives of the Republic of Serbia and the Swiss Confederation participated in two panel discussions where they talked about the Swiss-Serbian bilateral cooperation, results that were achieved so far and plans for the next four years. A short movie about some of program beneficiaries and their achievements through Swiss bilateral support was presented, followed by the short presentation of the strategic document. The Strategy launch was created both as formal and informal event, accompanied by music program and social gathering of the Swiss and Serbian cooperation partners.
In his statement to the Serbian media H.E. Philippe Guex, Ambassador of Switzerland to the Republic of Serbia stated: “Europe is the home of Swiss and Serbian citizens. Europe would not be Europe without Western Balkans, without Serbia. Switzerland and Serbia are neighbors and what do our citizens ask from us? They ask to live in peace, to live in security and to have decent living standards. To achieve this goal, it is the moral responsibility of the wealthiest countries in Europe, like Switzerland, to give a little help to its neighbors. This is the reason why Switzerland is so much committed in Serbia in terms of development cooperation. On top of that, Switzerland has very large Serbian diaspora, almost 200’000 people who are living, working and paying taxes in Switzerland. They are actually contributing to the prosperity of our country. This strong commitment of Switzerland in Serbia is also a recognition sign of the solidarity with Serbian diaspora in Switzerland.”
Ivan Bošnjak, State Secretary of the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government said that “the way in which the Swiss Development Agency and the Swiss Embassy were giving their support was tailored according to our needs. As the needs changed, Swiss support has been adjusted. Currently, several important projects are underway. Right now, we are at the beginning of this next strategic plan of support that will enhance the process of public administration reform, including the reform of local self-government. Through the support of the Swiss Development Agency, we have been given the possibility to complete, in 45 local self-government units, the process of improving the work of the local tax administration, which will build upon the process of legalization of illegal objects and include them into the register. Therefore, we will not increase tax on property, but the coverage of taxpayer.
Another thing to be highlighted is the importance of support within the process of local self-government reform, through the improvement of inter-municipal cooperation. At the same time, this will support the proposed changes and amendment on the Law on local self-government. Thus, after this process, local authorities will be able to provide joint services to their citizens and business and practically be able to share their resources in a better way.”
H.E. Ambassador Rut Huber, Assistant Director General of Swiss Development Assistance and Director of the Department for Cooperation with Eastern Europe said to the media that “here in Serbia we have been active through our development program since 1991 without any interruption. The launching of the new Cooperation Strategy today confirms the continuation of our engagement and our support to Serbia.”
Ivo German, Director of the Economic Cooperation and Development Sector in front of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs emphasized that one important area for the collaboration will be sustainable energy and resilient cities. He noted: “We are continuing to provide the support to new technologies by an exchange of technologies with Switzerland. For instance, the concept of energy cities. We are just now entering into a new collaboration with Serbia on supporting cities here to become more resilient against natural disasters. Therefore, this is another area for the transfer of knowledge between Switzerland and Serbia. We are very excited about this new program.”
Ursula Läubli, Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office stated: “The new Strategy is continuation of our very successful cooperation with Serbia. Domains will remain the same – governance, economic development and employability, sustainable energy and resilient cities. These areas remain relevant since they are related to the priorities of the Serbian Government towards the European integration path and as well as to the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). We have projects covering all Serbia, but our priority areas are South and Southwest Serbia because one of our trademarks is inclusive development. These are areas that require the biggest support as they are faced with high level of poverty and are in major need for development. We work with large number of partners such as Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities and various ministries.”