Your Excellency Minister Ruzic,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors to the Republic of Serbia,
Dear host, Mr. Radojicic Mayor of Belgrade,
Dear partners, ladies and gentlemen,
Switzerland has been providing a long standing support to the reform of local governments in Serbia. Local governments are the government tier closest to citizens and therefore best placed to serve their people’s needs. At the same time, we also know that local governments will play a leading role in implementing the acquis communautaire once Serbia joins the EU.
We believe that by making local governments stronger and modernizing the way they perform, citizens will benefit from better services and ultimately enjoy a better quality of life.
Switzerland is counting over 2’000 local governments and has considerable experience in exercising a lively democracy at the local and national level. Our wish is to convey this valuable experience and support Serbia in reaching its own tailor-made solutions for the challenges local governments are facing with.
The Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, as a sole association of local governments in Serbia, is a strategic partner to Switzerland and an indispensable domestic actor in local government reforms.
Switzerland provides institutional support to the Standing Conference to represent the interests of local governments at the central level; and to support local governments in implementing legislation adopted at the national level.
The total Swiss support for local governments going through the Standing Conference in the period 2005-2019 reached 9 million Euros. But it is less a question of money than a question of friendship and solidarity between two neighbor countries which share together the same European continent.
In the course of our cooperation significant results were achieved, such as the revision of the local self-government law last year or the strengthening of the dialogue between Belgrade and the local governments.
We are very pleased to see that while advocating on behalf of its members, the Standing Conference was also able to build a strong partnership with the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Governments. This partnership acts as an accelerator for reforms. A concrete illustration of this partnership is the draft Law on Referendum and Civic Initiatives.
As a highly decentralized country where citizens’ participation is essential to the management of public affairs, Switzerland will continue to provide strong support for such democratic processes in the years to come.
Allow me also to underline that we would like to extend our support to developing inter-municipal cooperation in Serbia. We are convinced that this is a beneficial concept allowing for economy of scale in providing public services to citizens. Through the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self Government, we are supporting a fund for inter-municipal initiatives in Serbia. So far 4 projects involving 33 municipalities have been approved.
In addition to the institutional support to the Standing Conference, the Swiss PRO program supported by Switzerland and implemented by UNOPS and the Standing Conference provides support to local governments to improve good governance, social inclusion and gender equality in their communities.
To conclude, let me underline that Switzerland will remain a committed partner to local governments, to the Standing Conference and to the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Governments for the sake of the citizens of Serbia.
Thank you for your attention!