Serbian mayor fishing for €60mn in EU funds
With an own regional representation in Brussels, the city of Nis in south-eastern Serbia is trying to "take its future in its own hands" and attract up to €60 million a year in EU funds once the country starts membership talks, mayor Milos Simonovic has said in an interview.
"The main objective is to represent not just the interests of the city of Nis, but also the entire south-east Serbian region. We want to attract more investors," Simonovic said while opening his new office in the EU capital.
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Hit by an unemployment rate of 25 percent and with big industrial centres closed during the war, the region of south-eastern Serbia hopes that once EU accession talks kick off - most likely in October - "a much bigger amount of money from pre-accession funds" will become available.
"One of the reasons why we are opening this office is to be prepared for this moment - to have projects and get more money," Simonovic said.
Big infrastructure projects such as new roads and waste water treatment plants are the main priorities, the mayor explained: "We hope to get the necessary co-financing for a waste water plant, which is estimated at €50 million."
Serbia has come under fire from environmental groups for letting waste water from households and industry go directly into the rivers.
With negotiations about the next seven-year EU budget looking increasingly at axing aid for regional projects unless they are environmentally-friendly and innovative, Simonovic said his office was keen to be directly involved in these debates.
"I think there is plenty of potential in Serbia for green and innovative projects, so we are trying to be in line with the discussions and debates going on in the EU. The Serbian mission in Brussels has some other priorities, that's why we're trying to take our future in our own hands," he noted.