UNDP supports Montenegro in starting preparations for the future use of EU Structural Funds
To make the best use of money from EU funds and ensure a better life for citizens, according to the EU legal framework, a country has to have a good strategy, which includes an analysis of its potential, the institutional framework with clearly defined powers and responsibilities of the institutions and its employees, transparent procedures for spending money and control of the funds, a sufficient number of projects and administrative capacity.
During the past seven years the European Union has made available to Montenegro 245 million euros worth grants through the IPA funds. The money has mainly been utilized to support the harmonization of legislation, projects in the field of environment, transport, justice and home affairs, public administration reform, social development, agriculture and rural development, as well as cross-border and transnational cooperation projects.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro and the Office of the Chief Negotiator, in collaboration with UNDP's Capacity Development Programme, organized a workshop on the preparation of Montenegro for negotiations on Chapter 22 - Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments.
The workshop was an opportunity to exchange views in the direction of creating the best institutional and organizational solutions for quality use of IPA funds and preparations for the future use of EU Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund. Those funds are earmarked for job creation and creation of better living conditions.
Ambassador Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, Chief Negotiator and National IPA Coordinator, said at the workshop: "An extremely large amount of grant assistance has flown in Montenegro through various projects. Now we are on the threshold of IPA II, a new financial period from 2014 to 2020. Although calculations have not been fully done yet, we expect similar amount in the mentioned period."
Now, Ambassador Pejović also said, it is time to get ourselves trained and to carry out reforms, so that we could use large, EU structural funds in the future. That it is about a lot of money, he explained through an example of the ten countries that have become a part of the European family in 2004. "In the past period of seven years, they had 150 billion euros through three funds at disposal," Ambassador Pejović emphasized.
Accession negotiations are the most challenging phase on Montenegro's path towards the EU, but they also represent the best kind of preparation for the future membership.
"The EU money should be spent wisely, and it should be directed in the way to get ourselves prepared for the challenges that await us in certain sectors. It is about a large amount of resources that will become very important along with the date of accession, and even more important in a time of economic crisis, given the decreased likelihood that national budgets will fund such projects. A better life for our citizens depends on how successfully we will respond to the European Union's requests," Ambassador Pejović underlined.
Montenegro will in future have at disposal resources from the European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund. The money from those funds is intended to reduce disparities between the regions of the EU, in order to strengthen economic and social cohesion and European territorial cooperation.
"The state investment system cannot function effectively without the rule of law and transparent, functioning institutions," said Ms. Jana Trošt, UNDP Consultant for EU Regional and Rural Development. "This is the most important money for investing in the country for the next - I would say not only seven years, when Montenegro will have had the IPA. With the help of IPA the country can influence development in some sectors. Those are the funds that really change the country. The European Commission has envisaged a legal framework for that money, by which it needs to be spent for achieving a better quality of life."
"In Slovenia, 95% of all investments realized in relation to services and infrastructure comes from structural funds. Therefore, we certainly cannot speak about the structural funds as a part of the action policy only, but also as an investment policy of the state as a whole. Perhaps now you may think to know what projects Montenegro needs - but all states that accessed the EU in the period 2004/07 had a problem of not having a sufficient number of projects."
To gain the EU funds in the process of accession it is necessary, first of all, to strengthen the internal capacities.
Ms. Sanja Bojanić, UNDP Montenegro Democratic Governance Cluster Leader, indicated the need for a good analysis of country's potential which will show where to direct funds from the EU. "Of great importance is good legislation, sufficient number of projects, control and transparency of investments, as well as professional staff," said Ms. Bojanić.
In order to secure and exploit as much money as possible, a good strategy is important, institutional frames but also transparent procedures for spending money. Experience of countries that have been there confirmed that it is not easy to come up with good projects. The workshop was attended by experts from Croatia and Hungary who presented their negotiation experiences to their Montenegrin counterparts, members of the working group for negotiations on Chapter 22 - Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments.
UNDP Consultant Peter Heil noted that 25 billion euros has been allocated for Hungary in a seven years period. "Evaluations show that it was about big investments that definitely benefited the country. Currently nothing happens in Hungary unless it is within the cohesion policy. There is currently 45 000 projects, of which half in the private sector. These are projects in the field of infrastructure, and indeed they represent a huge investment," said Mr. Heil.