Serbia and EU mark the 15th anniversary of EU assistance for the benefit of Serbian citizens

This year the European Union and the Republic of Serbia mark the 15th anniversary of EU support to Serbia. Since 2001, Serbia has benefitted from more than € 3 billion in non-refundable grants from EU pre-accession funds. Financial assistance has been spent on programmes and projects which fostered development and concrete reforms and brought benefits to citizens in a number of areas.

“Since the first EU projects started in March 2001, the EU has become the main partner of Serbia in non-refundable grants that improve the quality of life of the Serbian citizens. From strengthening public administration, to the education, social or the health sectors, bridges, roads or landfills, the EU has been committed in enabling Serbia not only to eventually join the EU, but to make a real difference for its citizens,” said ambassador Michael Davenport, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia.

Our partnership has grown stronger over time and proved its value in difficult moments, said ambassador Davenport: “When heavy floods hit Serbia in May 2014, through the EU’s civil protection mechanism, EU Member States’ rescue teams were on the ground within 48 hours to help save lives. Very quickly we followed up with a donation of over €173 million for Serbia’s reconstruction efforts, which then helped tens of thousands of families and hundreds of businesses to rebuild their lives.

EU assistance started in March 2001 through the CARDS or Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation programme. In 2006, CARDS was replaced by the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) programme which ran until 2013. Its successor, IPA II programme, will bring €1.5 billion for Serbia over 2014-2020 and focusses on most important sectors in order to facilitate Serbia’s preparations for membership in the EU. The EU is by far the biggest donor of non-refundable assistance to Serbia, which is the largest recipient of EU funds in the Western Balkans and one of the largest in the world. Currently some 600 EU projects are implemented in close cooperation with the Serbian authorities, municipalities, businesses and NGOs. The EU is also traditionally Serbia’s key trading partner accounting for almost two thirds of Serbian overall foreign trade. Two-thirds of all foreign investments also come from the EU.

The 15th anniversary of assistance will be marked by media trainings and briefings, conferences, exhibitions and presentations of successful EU projects. A photo competition themed “Where I see EU in Serbia” has been launched. Detailed information available at

For more information, please contact:

Nadezda Dramicanin, EU Delegation to Serbia, Communication Officer, E-mail: [email protected]

Milica Markovic Tomic, Serbian European Integration Office, Senior Adviser, E-mail: [email protected]

Marina Rakic, EU Info Centre, EU Assistance Visibility and Information Officer, E-mail: [email protected]

Impact of EU projects – background information:

In the recent years, EU assistance has been increasingly focused on preparation for EU membership with projects helping to introduce EU standards which directly improve the quality of life of citizens. There are many examples:

– In the area of health care, the EU has equipped hospitals, laboratories, institutes of public health and blood transfusion centres and provided 252 emergency medical vehicles for health centres around Serbia, the largest donation ever of such supplies.

– A number of projects were carried in the education sector which included the reform of the vocational and education curricula, introducing adult education as well as social inclusion in schools. The EU helped to reconstruct and refurbish 27 faculties in Serbia including the Rectorate of the University of Belgrade, the Belgrade Botanical Garden, as well as a new building for the Faculty of Science in Novi Sad. Through EU funded scholarships, 2,600 of Serbian students and professors studied abroad in 2015 lone.

– The EU has assisted the reconstruction of the Sloboda, Gazela and Zezelj bridges, as well as of roads, and construction of the Corridor 10.

– EU funds have helped protect Serbia’s environment: the reconstructed waste water treatment plant in Subotica now discharges clean water into the Palic lake; many wild landfills have been closed as EU funds helped the construction of modern waste treatment systems such as in Uzice, Sremska Mitrovica, Pozarevac and elsewhere. Citizens of Obrenovac and Belgrade enjoy cleaner air due to EU-funded ash-filters installed in thermal power plant Nikola Tesla.

– The EU has helped to build over 1,500 new apartments and houses for Serbian refugees and internally displaced people, oftentimes providing them also with free legal aid, education and training, as well as grants to start their own businesses.

– Over 800 EU funded cross-border projects have engaged border communities and facilitated regional cooperation and reconciliation.

– In less than two years after the floods, 545 small businesses, 1,049 families and 26,387 farmers benefited from EU assistance of €173.6 million in non-refundable grants, and 15 schools, one kindergarten, one sports hall, 12 km of a road between Korenita and Krupanj and two bridges in Kraljevo were rebuilt with EU assistance. Reconstruction efforts are still ongoing with a special focus on improving preventive measures and infrastructure on local level. The money from Solidarity Fund will be used to build 78 completely new bridges in 35 local self-governments; implement 52 projects aimed at reconstruction and strengthening of infrastructure in 39 local self-governments, including road infrastructure, water regulation at local level, water supply and sanitation; and to reconstruct 50 public facilities in the areas of health and education.

– The EU supports the Serbian private sector and innovative companies. Over the last five years, the EU has helped to establish the Innovation Fund in Serbia and has funded over 50 innovative projects, which have improved the competitiveness of Serbian SMEs and helped to create some 300 high-end jobs.

– The European PROGRESS, a programme that contributes to the sustainable development of the southern and southwestern Serbia, is supported by the EU and the Swiss Government. The programme aims to strengthen local administration, create a more favorable environment for the development of infrastructure and economy and to improve the implementation of policies in the field of social inclusion.

For more stories on benefits of EU projects in the Serbian society please see: