The European Union, through its EU PRO Development Programme, will provide support worth over 600,000 Euros for 20 new projects that will contribute to increased competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises as was decided at the meeting of the EU PRO Steering Committee held today in Sokobanja.
Business support organisations, the projects of which have been top-ranked following a public call, will assist the small and medium-sized enterprises through their activities to improve their production processes and the quality of products and services and will support them in introducing relevant standards and capturing new markets.
The Mayor of the Municipality of Sokobanja, Isidor Krstić, expressed his gratitude to the European Union and the Government of Serbia for supporting the economic development of Sokobanja, where two projects worth over 950,000 Euros are being implemented within EU PRO. In addition to the introduction and development of the geographical information system to serve tourism development, the drinking water plant “Carina” is being reconstructed and has been visited today by the representatives of the EU Delegation, the Ministry of European Integration, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure and UNOPS that implements the EU PRO.
"This economic infrastructure project in Sokobanja should, above all, contribute to the improvement of the tourist offer, as not only will it benefit the tourist service providers, but also all tourists who come during the year to visit this spa, which has been ranked among the top five tourist destinations in Serbia for 2018," said Branko Budimir, Acting Assistant Minister of European Integration and chair of the EU PRO Steering Committee on the occasion of his visit to the plant.
"Local governments are very satisfied with the implementation of the programme and Sokobanja, as an active partner, has recognised the opportunity of receiving funding from various EU programmes," said Budimir, adding that the Ministry of European Integration and representatives of the EU Delegation were already planning new support for local governments and that it was up to them to prepare good project proposals.
With the support of the EU and the Government of Serbia of close to 750.00 Euros and through the reconstruction of the "Carina" drinking water processing plant and the construction of 2,700 metres of new primary water supply network, the municipality of Sokobanja will be able to solve the issue of water supply and water shortages it has been facing for years.
Head of UNOPS Office Michela Telatin stated that the project would improve the tourism potential of the municipality, attract investors, create new jobs, and improve the quality of life of the local population.
As presented at the Steering Committee meeting in Sokobanja, the progress of the EU PRO programme made so far, reflected in 224 approved projects worth over 18 million Euros. Currently, 56 local governments are implementing 96 projects in the field of infrastructure, planning and technical documentation development and introduction of geographic information systems. An important accomplishment has been made through the support provided in the form of equipment for 94 companies that created 115 new jobs.
"The EU PRO programme is a unique programme in terms of the number of municipalities it covers as well as the diversity and number of projects funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of European Integration,” said Zoran Lakićević, State Secretary at the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure.
"In partnership with the EU, we have been able to channel funds into priority projects for local economic development, including support for the development of the local economy, focusing on areas in which resources are less available," said Katarina Obradović Jovanović, Assistant Minister of Economy. She emphasised that the EU support to enterprises extended through the EU PRO programme was complementary to the activities of the Ministry and aimed at small and new enterprises.
"The European Union, through the EU PRO, is primarily here for you, we want to improve local life, invest in the competitiveness of the economy, improve the business environment, local infrastructure and social inclusion," said Ana Stanković, Project Manager at the EU Delegation.
At today's meeting in Sokobanja, good practice examples of local self-governments which used the European funds to implement projects of importance to local communities were presented. Representatives of the City of Kragujevac, implementing as many as four projects worth more than 1.2 million Euros, as well as the municipality of Bojnik, implementing a project worth 1 million Euros of infrastructure equipping of the new agro-business zone in Kosančić, told their counterparts from local self-governments that success in attracting investments could be achieved by investing in human resources as well as through long-term strategic planning.
The Steering Committee members also agreed to the criteria of the second public call for support to entrepreneurs, micro and small enterprises through the procurement of equipment and introduction of services, which will be published next week.
 Faculty of Engineering - Bor, Faculty of Electronic Engineering in Niš, Science and Technology Park- Čačak, Eneca, Centre for Development of the Jablanica and Pčinja District, RDA “South”, RDA for Braničevo - Podunavlje - Doo Požarevac, RARIS, RDA for Podrinje, Podgorina and Rađevina Doo Loznica, RDA “Zlatibor”, RDA for Sandžak-SEDA, Business Development Centre Kragujevac, Business Innovation Centre Kragujevac, Business Incubator Centre Yumco BIC Vranje, Centre for Innovative Youth Entrepreneurship - Startup Centre - Niš, Centre for Development Support and Initiative "Novitas", Timok Youth Centre, Women's Association "Ethno Forum" - Svrljig, “Dunđer” Citizens’ Association, Ni-Kat Cluster from Niš.