Switzerland stays committed to local government reforms in Serbia

Local news, 11.12.2019

The most important annual gathering of local governments in Serbia – the General Assembly of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities – was held on 11 December in Belgrade.  On that occasion, H.E. Ambassador Philippe Guex spoke on the support provided by the Swiss Confederation to local governments in Serbia. In addition, a Memorandum on cooperation and support in the area of good governance was signed between the Embassy of Switzerland and 15 local authorities.    

General Assembly of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities
General Assembly of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities ©SCTM

In his introductory speech, the Ambassador said that, by improving the work of local self-governments, citizens will be provided with better quality services. He stressed that, through cooperation with SCTM, the Swiss Government had allocated nine million euros to support local governments, and expressed Switzerland's desire is to share experiences so that Serbia can build local government services tailored to the needs of residents.

Switzerland institutionally supports SCTM, which is a key stakeholder in local government reforms. Supported by Switzerland, SCTM bridges the gap between the central and local level by presenting interests of the local governments to the government and line ministries. At the same time, SCTM provides guidance and strengthens local governments to implement laws.

Given that the main topic of this Assembly session was inter-municipal cooperation, the Ambassador also mentioned the importance of this developing mechanism for raising efficiency. "As a highly decentralized country, we support inter-municipal cooperation because it is a useful concept that enables better services", Guex said.

In addition, within the SCTM General Assembly session, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed on the implementation of the municipal support packages in 15 towns and municipalities within the project “Improving good governance at the local level”. The project is implemented by the SCTM as part of the program “Support of the Swiss Government to the Development of Municipalities through the Promotion of Good Governance and Social Inclusion - SwissPro”, implemented by UNOPS. This type of direct support to local government through MSPs is oriented towards increased citizen participation, enhanced transparency and adequate implementation of anticorruption policies at the local level.

 “We are talking about a methodology related to transparency in work, the fight against corruption and citizen participation in all this. There are different types of assistance, from technical, through advisory, to skills development and social inclusion”, confirmed Priska Depnering, a.i. Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office.

Depnering also emphasized that local authorities will, among other things, be able to improve transparency in their work through citizen participation in local budgeting, and also through gender budgeting.

In the previous period (2018) 13 local authorities were provided with support for the implementation of good governance principles within their local administrations. Continuation of this kind of intervention in towns and municipalities indicates both local governments’ need for and interest in improving their functioning with the final aim of increased public satisfaction.

"I wish to thank all the local self-governments involved in this for being interested in addressing these important reforms", she concluded.

The following local authorities have received the support: Novi Pazar, Vrnjacka Banja, Priboj, Sombor, Knjazevac, Kosjeric, Uzice, Kovin, Lapovo, Arilje, Topola, Merosina, Vlasotince, Tutin, and Pozega.