4 February 2010 As one community has found out, cross-border regional programmes can change the fortunes of communities that feel their own governments are ignoring their problems. As one community has found out, cross-border regional programmes can change the fortunes of communities that feel their own governments are ignoring their problems.

The border crossing between Romania and Serbia near the village of Jasa Tomic is desolate and closed to traffic for most of the year. It is only open for a few days a month or on major state and church holidays.

On these occasions, the villagers get a brief taste of what life is like on a busy international crossroads. “The shortest road between Timisoara and Novi Sad is via Jasa Tomic [and] when the crossing is open, turnover increases by up to 60 per cent,” a local restaurateur noted. “It’s up the same amount in the shops and petrol stations.”

The villagers would like the border to be open more often. But until recently, Predrag Milosevic, mayor of Secanj, the municipality in which the village lies, was not able to meet their demand.

“No one in the government showed any understanding for the many appeals that came from our municipality,” Milosevic recalled.

Experts in international and regional cooperation see this logjam as “a textbook example of a centralised state in which the potentials and capacities of cross-border and interregional cooperation programmes have still not been recognised”.

According to Professor Franz Schausberger, president of the Institute of the Regions of Europe, IRE, such problems would not occur if more decision-making powers were left to local and regional authorities.

“To achieve efficiency and gain trust in politics, you need to make decisions that are close to the people,” he says. “This is why it is important to delegate as many decisions as possible to regional and local level.”

Decentralisation and questions about interregional cooperation between municipalities and newly formed regions were one of the main political topics in Serbia in 2009.

Conservatives and other parties in favour of centralisation voiced strong opposition to the adoption of the Vojvodina Statute, a document that defines the status and powers of Serbia’s northern autonomous province.

Among other rights, it permits the province to open its representative office in Brussels.

Professor Schausberger says that two decades ago, problems similar to those in Vojvodina led the European Union to start actively advocating and funding decentralisation and regionalisation processes among its members, and among EU candidate countries.

Milan Simurdic, of the European Movement in Serbia, wants Belgrade to take full advantage of the funds and advice that are available. “It would be wrong not to make use of the political and financial opportunities offered by the decentralisation and cross-border cooperation projects supported by EU funds,” he said.

The funds referred to mainly come from the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, IPA. The main aims of the IPA are to strengthen democratic institutions, promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular respect for minority rights, develop civil society and improve regional and cross-border cooperation.

For the year 2010, Serbia has been allocated 198 million euro from IPA funds.

Bojan Pajtic, president of the provincial government in Vojvodina and a politician associated with the recently adopted Statute, maintains that improved cross-border and interregional cooperation can yield significant results in fields such as the economy, energy, traffic, tourism and culture.

“Over the next six years, we could reduce unemployment… and make an infrastructural breakthrough in terms of attracting new investors,” Pajtic claims.

To date, Vojvodina has signed over 30 agreements with other regions, in Germany, Hungary, Romania, Italy, the Czech Republic and elsewhere – many predating the adoption of the Vojvodina Stature on November 30 last year.

The most important, signed on November 21, 1997, created a new so-called Euroregion, the Danube-Kris-Mures-Tisa Euroregion, DKMT.

This comprises the province of Vojvodina in Serbia, the counties of Bacs-Kiskun, Bekes and Csongrad in Hungary and the counties of Arad, Hunedoara, Caras-Severin and Timis in Romania.

The creation of the Euroregion has been held partly responsible for the major warming in political and economic relations between Serbia, Hungary and Romania in the past few years.

According to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Hungary is now one of Serbia’s most important economic partners. In the summer of 2009, the Serbian Prime Minister, Mirko Cvetkovic, publicly thanked Hungary for supporting Serbia’s EU integration process.

Leaders of Vojvodina say the new Statute for their province will additionally help them continue the work they have started.

Among the newly gained rights, the Deputy Prime Minister and provincial secretary for regional and international cooperation, Boris Barjaktarevic, notes the possibility of opening regional representative offices.

“I would like Vojvodina to have representative offices in all the more than 30 regions with which we are successfully cooperating,” Barjaktarevic told the Belgrade daily Politika, [though] “unfortunately, the economic situation is such that we have to set priorities.

“Through a representative office in Brussels, which we will set up when Serbia becomes an EU candidate, we will be able to apply for European development funds and establish new contacts with other European regions,” Barjaktarevic continued.

The decision to allow Vojvodina to open regional representative offices in places like Brussels was one of the most fiercely contested provisions of the Statute.

Nationalist parties like the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, and the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, condemned what they called a green light for “separatism”.

Milan Simurdic, of the European Movement, says these charges are unfounded. Regional initiatives are not about encouraging separatist movements but “improving of the lives of ordinary people,” he says.

“Open borders and the free flow of people, ideas and capital not only bring financial advantages but also promote in the best possible way the universal values of the European Union,” he adds.

Mayor Predrag Milosevic agrees that regional programmes are the way ahead. For years he tried to solve the problem of the closed border in his municipality by lobbying central government.

It was only when the Romanian side, acting on an EU regional grant, took the initiative that Serbia’s Interior Ministry at last reacted.

“The Romanians received about 2 million euro from EU funds for cross-border and transnational cooperation programmes to remodel the border crossing on their side,” the mayor recalled.

Work on remodelling the mostly deserted border crossing is now underway. According to officials, regular international traffic could be passing through Jasa Tomic as soon as May.

Dragan Gmizic is a journalist in Novi Sad. This article was published with the support of the British embassy in Belgrade as part of BIRN’s Training and Reporting Project.

This article is courtesy of , the online publication of the , which contains analytical reports, in-depth analyses and investigations and news items from throughout the region covering major challenges of the political, social and economic transition in the Balkans.

Read the article on Balkan Travelers

Regional Project Revives Ailing Border Village in Serbia

4 February 2010 As one community has found out, cross-border regional programmes can change the fortunes of communities that feel their own governments are ignoring their problems. As one community has found out, cross-border regional programmes can change the fortunes of communities that feel their own governments are ignoring their problems.

The border crossing between Romania and Serbia near the village of Jasa Tomic is desolate and closed to traffic for most of the year. It is only open for a few days a month or on major state and church holidays.

On these occasions, the villagers get a brief taste of what life is like on a busy international crossroads. “The shortest road between Timisoara and Novi Sad is via Jasa Tomic [and] when the crossing is open, turnover increases by up to 60 per cent,” a local restaurateur noted. “It’s up the same amount in the shops and petrol stations.”

The villagers would like the border to be open more often. But until recently, Predrag Milosevic, mayor of Secanj, the municipality in which the village lies, was not able to meet their demand.

“No one in the government showed any understanding for the many appeals that came from our municipality,” Milosevic recalled.

Experts in international and regional cooperation see this logjam as “a textbook example of a centralised state in which the potentials and capacities of cross-border and interregional cooperation programmes have still not been recognised”.

According to Professor Franz Schausberger, president of the Institute of the Regions of Europe, IRE, such problems would not occur if more decision-making powers were left to local and regional authorities.

“To achieve efficiency and gain trust in politics, you need to make decisions that are close to the people,” he says. “This is why it is important to delegate as many decisions as possible to regional and local level.”

Decentralisation and questions about interregional cooperation between municipalities and newly formed regions were one of the main political topics in Serbia in 2009.

Conservatives and other parties in favour of centralisation voiced strong opposition to the adoption of the Vojvodina Statute, a document that defines the status and powers of Serbia’s northern autonomous province.

Among other rights, it permits the province to open its representative office in Brussels.

Professor Schausberger says that two decades ago, problems similar to those in Vojvodina led the European Union to start actively advocating and funding decentralisation and regionalisation processes among its members, and among EU candidate countries.

Milan Simurdic, of the European Movement in Serbia, wants Belgrade to take full advantage of the funds and advice that are available. “It would be wrong not to make use of the political and financial opportunities offered by the decentralisation and cross-border cooperation projects supported by EU funds,” he said.

The funds referred to mainly come from the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, IPA. The main aims of the IPA are to strengthen democratic institutions, promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular respect for minority rights, develop civil society and improve regional and cross-border cooperation.

For the year 2010, Serbia has been allocated 198 million euro from IPA funds.

Bojan Pajtic, president of the provincial government in Vojvodina and a politician associated with the recently adopted Statute, maintains that improved cross-border and interregional cooperation can yield significant results in fields such as the economy, energy, traffic, tourism and culture.

“Over the next six years, we could reduce unemployment… and make an infrastructural breakthrough in terms of attracting new investors,” Pajtic claims.

To date, Vojvodina has signed over 30 agreements with other regions, in Germany, Hungary, Romania, Italy, the Czech Republic and elsewhere – many predating the adoption of the Vojvodina Stature on November 30 last year.

The most important, signed on November 21, 1997, created a new so-called Euroregion, the Danube-Kris-Mures-Tisa Euroregion, DKMT.

This comprises the province of Vojvodina in Serbia, the counties of Bacs-Kiskun, Bekes and Csongrad in Hungary and the counties of Arad, Hunedoara, Caras-Severin and Timis in Romania.

The creation of the Euroregion has been held partly responsible for the major warming in political and economic relations between Serbia, Hungary and Romania in the past few years.

According to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Hungary is now one of Serbia’s most important economic partners. In the summer of 2009, the Serbian Prime Minister, Mirko Cvetkovic, publicly thanked Hungary for supporting Serbia’s EU integration process.

Leaders of Vojvodina say the new Statute for their province will additionally help them continue the work they have started.

Among the newly gained rights, the Deputy Prime Minister and provincial secretary for regional and international cooperation, Boris Barjaktarevic, notes the possibility of opening regional representative offices.

“I would like Vojvodina to have representative offices in all the more than 30 regions with which we are successfully cooperating,” Barjaktarevic told the Belgrade daily Politika, [though] “unfortunately, the economic situation is such that we have to set priorities.

“Through a representative office in Brussels, which we will set up when Serbia becomes an EU candidate, we will be able to apply for European development funds and establish new contacts with other European regions,” Barjaktarevic continued.

The decision to allow Vojvodina to open regional representative offices in places like Brussels was one of the most fiercely contested provisions of the Statute.

Nationalist parties like the Serbian Radical Party, SRS, Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, and the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, condemned what they called a green light for “separatism”.

Milan Simurdic, of the European Movement, says these charges are unfounded. Regional initiatives are not about encouraging separatist movements but “improving of the lives of ordinary people,” he says.

“Open borders and the free flow of people, ideas and capital not only bring financial advantages but also promote in the best possible way the universal values of the European Union,” he adds.

Mayor Predrag Milosevic agrees that regional programmes are the way ahead. For years he tried to solve the problem of the closed border in his municipality by lobbying central government.

It was only when the Romanian side, acting on an EU regional grant, took the initiative that Serbia’s Interior Ministry at last reacted.

“The Romanians received about 2 million euro from EU funds for cross-border and transnational cooperation programmes to remodel the border crossing on their side,” the mayor recalled.

Work on remodelling the mostly deserted border crossing is now underway. According to officials, regular international traffic could be passing through Jasa Tomic as soon as May.

Dragan Gmizic is a journalist in Novi Sad. This article was published with the support of the British embassy in Belgrade as part of BIRN’s Training and Reporting Project.

This article is courtesy of , the online publication of the , which contains analytical reports, in-depth analyses and investigations and news items from throughout the region covering major challenges of the political, social and economic transition in the Balkans.

Read the article on Balkan Travelers

Postat de pe data de 31 ian., 2010 in categoria România în lume. Poti urmari comentariile acestui articol prin RSS 2.0. Acest articol a fost vizualizat de 86 ori.

Publica un raspuns