Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Modernisation of Municipal Services

Project description

Title: Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Modernisation of Municipal Services
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Lead executing agency: Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)
Overall term: 2006 to 2021

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Context

The countries of South East Europe are making efforts to join the European Union. This transformation process asks for transparent and efficient administration for citizens.

However, local authorities lack the capacities and appropriate solutions to fulfil EU standards. Existing good examples are not shared. Without cooperation and exchange of experiences, development will stall, and the improvement of municipal services will not progress.

This is where the project steps in, strengthening cooperation between municipalities in order to achieve sustainable development.

Objective

Regional cooperation for the improvement of municipal services in accordance with EU accession requirements is strengthened.

Approach

The project supports municipalities and public utilities in the entire region. The crucial link is associations which provide support and expertise to help local authorities across borders to organise their services in line with Sustainable Development Goals.

The project covers classic municipal services such as water supply, sanitation and waste management.
At the same time, the project strengthens the efficiency of local administration to offer better employment perspectives to vulnerable groups in the municipal community.

The project strengthens capacities of relevant stakeholders and offers access to effective solutions for the improvement of municipal services. 

The project also promotes cooperation between decision-makers at national and regional levels, to assure that the reform processes are reinforced through legally binding agreements.

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Results

With the support (co-funding) of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, a regional capacity development network for water and sanitation was established. By mid-2019, 224 organizations were supported to implement measures such as reducing water loss or preparing rehabilitation and investment projects.

To improve municipal waste management, new processes such as route optimization, composting and tariff systems were introduced in 13 municipalities. In addition, a methodology for monitoring of financial and environmental effects was developed which serves as a best practice model for all municipalities in the region. 

To improve the local business environment, a regional network of chambers and investment agencies now helps municipalities through a Business Friendly Certification Scheme to introduce concrete improvements. More than 100 municipalities have adapted their services. According to research from 2016, the business friendliness of certified municipalities is 76 per cent above average. With around one billion Euros in a period of three years, these municipalities attracted three times as much foreign investments than other municipalities.

At the same time, good practices, like a system for electronic building permits, were transferred between the partner countries to help partners to learn from each other and grow together.

The project created employment opportunities for vulnerable groups. Competence Passports allow people without formal education to identify their skills, so they can find work more easily. Nearly 500 people have already benefited. As a result, 22 per cent of beneficiaries are employed and 15 per cent became active on the labour market only six months after receiving support. 

By the introduction of recycling, from 2017 to 2019, 35 jobs are created and 52 workers were employed in public companies, and over 120 informal waste collectors have additional income. 

E-registration of seasonal workers in agriculture was established in Serbia. Since its launch in January 2019, over 27,500 people were registered by 320 employers and already worked more than 900,000 days while getting access to social security system. In the same period, the Serbian government generated 2.7 million Euros of budget income through taxes. The project now supports the transfer of the system, which further strengthens cooperation among the countries in Western Balkans.

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