16 September 2016 Participants of the Interparliamentary Conference on the oversight of IPA funds
Friday, 16 September 2016
Interparliamentary Conference on Oversight of IPA Funds Held at National Assembly
The Interparliamentary conference “Oversight of IPA Funds: Successes and Challenges” co-organised by the National Assembly and the European Parliament, gathered more than 40 members of the European Parliament, parliaments of the Western Balkans and Turkey and representatives of the European Court of Auditors.
Opening the Conference, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Veroljub Arsic said that Serbia’s most basic foreign policy priority and chief strategic goal is EU membership.
“The opening of chapters 23 and 24 is a big recognition to our Government, country and the progress in the reforms it conducts. The support for the EU enlargement policy to include the Western Balkans has been confirmed by the initiation of the Berlin Process which opened a new perspective for the region. We see the use of IPA funds as support of the necessary political, economic, legal and institutional reforms which are prerequisites for EU accession. That is why it is important to improve state administration at all levels to boost the degree of utilisation of these funds and be ready for EU membership, when the much larger structural funds will become accessible to us. I hope the best practice examples and exchange of views at today’s Conference will help improve our respective parliaments’ capacities for more efficient oversight over the use of IPA funds, as well as our understanding of the mechanisms of their use to the benefit of all the citizens of the region”, said Deputy Speaker Arsic.
The Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Michael Davenport opined that it is good to organise regional events such as this one, in cooperation with the European Parliament, especially events dedicated to the topic of use of pre-accession funds.
“We should never forget, those of us who are responsible for implementing, designing and evaluating the disbursement of IPA funding that we are disbursing EU tax payers’ funds in the course of supporting countries in this region to transform their societies, institutions and economies and to be ready ultimately for accession, as member states of the European Union. It is good that this conference is staged in Serbia which is one of the biggest EU fund beneficiaries in the Balkans in view of the fact that the EU Delegation in Serbia is conducting over 600 projects”, said Davenport.
He presented concrete examples of how the funds have been used in Serbia so far, underlining that Serbia and the countries of the region share a common problem – far too many strategies which are often not compatible, as well as getting at the priorities. He said that in the coming period the EU would be focusing on reforms in the rule of law, raising levels of competitiveness, developing local communities, youth employment and improving integration of vulnerable social groups.
The Deputy Director of the European Integration Office and Coordinator for EU Funds Ana Ilic presented specific data on the projects realised in Serbia and the IPA funds utilised for them.
The participants of the Conference exchanged views and opinions on aligning IPA II with the enlargement strategy; parliamentary oversight of external instruments, in particular IPA; efficiency of usage of EU funds and interaction with the parliament and the civil society; the Union's instruments for external action: the role of EP in IPA II’s strategy and implementation - strategic dialogue between the European Parliament and European Commission; regional and cross-border cooperation involving IPA and structural funds; and introducing budget support under IPA II: emphasising the role of the parliament in the national budget cycle and monitoring of reform results.
In the session on regional and cross-border cooperation involving IPA and structural funds, European Integration Committee Chairperson Marinika Tepic said that the region views the IPA funds through the European integration process as a whole. Tepic said that Serbia has been waiting to enter the negotiating process since 2002, burdened by circumstances the other countries which had joined the Union did not have to contend with. She was pleased that four negotiating chapters had been opened in the last 10 months, especially chapters 23 and 24 which are important for the organisation of Serbian society. Speaking of the role the National Assembly and the European Integration Committee play in the negotiation process, Tepic said that National Assembly is awaiting negotiating positions for eight more chapters which may be opened by the end of the year.
“According to the EU Delegation’s data the degree of utilisation of IPA funds in Serbia has been reaching as much as 98%. It is important to continue this positive trend especially in regional and cross-border cooperation projects”, said Tepic.
Speaking of the statistical data and the number of realised projects, the European Integration Committee Chairperson reminded the attending of the importance of the Berlin Process which had, among other things, prompted the Western Balkan region to use the pre-accession funds.
“Serbia is interested in multi-beneficiary IPA funds, the support instrument for the common goals of EU candidate and potential candidate countries. In view of the importance of the Western Balkan region we urge that more attention be paid to cooperation without which we cannot go further, which we parliamentarians know so well. I urge everyone to use this Conference to establish bilateral relations, which can be one of the conclusions of the Conference”, said Tepic.
At the end of the Conference, the co-chair, European Integration Committee Chairperson Marinika Tepic read the conclusion proposals which would be submitted to all the participants: IPA funds are an EU priority, and the 2014-2020 budget funds have been increased; focusing on boosting the administrative capacities for fund absorption at all levels; infrastructural and energy projects should be realised in the Western Balkan region; regional initiatives and regional projects should be supported.
Concluding the Conference, Tepic opined that it could be said a consensus has been reached on intensifying interparliamentary cooperation, at the bilateral level and more, so that parliamentarians could send a clear message to future fund beneficiaries. She again urged the participants to achieve cooperation, just like the European integration committees of the parliaments of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina which have already set up an interparliamentary meeting.
11.00 - the National Assembly Speaker addresses the conference on the Position of Serbia’s in the Euro-Atlantic Community (National Assembly Building, 14 Kralja Milana Street, Grand Hall)