Business Friendly Serbia

On May 26, 2011, in Growth funding, Regional growth, by Mojca Hrabar
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If you have a chance to visit Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport these days you might get attracted by big colorful billboards with names and pictures of eight Serbian municipalities on it. Each municipality got introduced in the way it is usually being recognized or plans to build such reputation in adequate area – renewable energy, fruit growing, specific industrial tradition or simply with business friendly approach. This is just a part of a business campaign “Serbia is Business Friendly”, started by the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) in order to promote standards, quality of services and information that local governments provide to businesses.

Today, when we are facing a crisis, it is very obvious that much bigger efforts must be made in order to attract businesses and funding. Besides direct financial incentives provided by municipalities, investors also take into consideration the quality of communication that they establish with local governments, clear procedures, professionalism, accuracy, as well as the impression and expectations regarding possible partnerships in the future. Investors in Serbia and other countries in transition expect and value a realistically presented image about local region. That’s why it is very important to work on capacity building and prepare a specific strategic path for each municipality and a target region.

Municipalities are slowly becoming aware of huge necessity for the proactive approach in attracting foreign investments or financial support in general. That includes, among other things, securing standard conditions and direct contact with relevant stakeholders, engaging the most adequate team for advisory and support, keeping track with ongoing trends and tendencies and reducing bureaucratic obstacles. So far, Serbian Municipalities seem dedicated to the economic development in long-term and ready to take consistent reforms of their administrations and their complete operating mechanisms in general. A process of recognition and emphasizing own potentials, as well as their effective promotion in order to attract partners, has successfully (re)started. Although Serbia kept loosing its economic pounce over a decade, there is still enough time, space and will to get on the right track.

The post was prepared by Dejan Tonić, our colleague from Oikos Serbia.

Happy IDB Day!

On May 22, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Mojca Hrabar
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Since 1993, 22 May is celebrated as International Day for Biodiversity. 2011 is International Year of Forests, therefore this year celebrations are dedicated to forest biodiversity – a topic that is well suited not only to Slovenia, but also to the entire Balkan region. The latest report on the “State of Europe’s Forests”, prepared jointly by The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in EuropeUNECE and FAO shows that Slovenia has 3rd highest share of forest cover. Vast forests and world-renowned sustainable forest management are one of the reasons for high biodiversity is high in Slovenia; karstic environment, mountainous terrain and specific patterns of land use are also important. In the EU, Natura 2000 network was designated as a mechanism to protect biodiversity. It is interesting to take it size and share as an indicator of biodiversity of a country. Of all the EU Member States, Slovenia has highest share of territory designated as Natura 2000 areas (35,5 %): it is followed by Bulgaria (34,0 %), Slovakia (28,9 %) and Spain (28,1 %), while in other EU Member States, this share is lower than 25 %. Saying just on the basis of this that the new Member States are the more biodiversity-rich countries in the EU would be a generalisation, but a closer look at other biodiversity indicators would support this statement.

It would be interesting to analyse how rich can biodiversity-rich Member States get in economic terms. In Slovenia large-scale construction and changed patterns of behaviour have significantly changed the landscape over the last 10 years, especially outside of Natura 2000 areas and of the effects of such development on biodiversity are growing. Some indicators of recently established monitorings (e.g. Farmland Bird Index) are suggesting that biodiversity is declining, but whether this is true remains to be seen with consistent monitoring over longer periods. From the development perspective, Natura 2000 network could surely be seen as a basis for place-based economy – but to really use it as an opportunity would require innovative approaches, not just copying the development patterns of old Member States. After all, natural resources are becoming central to the development debates for obvious reasons…

Oikos just started implementing new project in Montenegro, Business Process Review is the latest assignment contracted with the LUX Development. The Business Process Review project focuses on building the national legal, policy and institutional framework for forest management. The Business Process Review is intended to assist the Government of Montenegro to achieve its objectives for improved forest management through appropriate enhancement of its management capacity and its efficiently.

Business Process Review kick off Pljevlja, 16.5.2011

Business Process Review kick off Pljevlja, 16.5.2011

The Business Process Review leads to the identification of recommended business processes for efficient Forest Administration of the country. This should not only lead to better forest management but also support sustainable growth of the country.  Project is financed under the FODEMO project in Montenegro and will be finalized by the end of September 2011.

Team members from Oikos, Jurij Kobal (Team leader), Matjaž Harmel, Danijela Burzan (team members), Aleksander Golob from Ministry of agriculture, forestry and food of the Republic of Slovenia (team member) and Živan Veselič, Dragan Matijašić, Aleš Poljanec al from Zavod za gozdove Slovenije (team members).

 

In 2005, the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) has organised a highly successful global theme conference on SEA in Prague. As we are IAIA members and the topic is of particular interest for us, we were there and awed at the experience and creative thinking on the future of SEA and its usefulness. The enthusiasm about SEA, this new planning and assessment tool, was stirring in the air, contacts from IAIA 2004 conference in Vancouver were strengthened and browsing through literature had no limits. In later years, the experience and exchange of information with the contacts from the conference have been invaluable for our work. In Slovenia, SEA was introduced only in 2004; most of the SEAs are done for spatial plans of different levels (including the minuscule ones that can be also seen as projects worth of EIAs) and there is not only lack of competition, but also little exchange of experience. So far the greatest Oikos’s opportunity as well as challenge in terms of SEA of a programme were SEAs for Operational Programmes of Structural Funds in Slovenia in 2006, where we could really put Prague SEA conference lessons in practice.

The next EU programming period is around the corner and I am sure that SEA practitioners are looking forward to the “Prague II” SEA conference that was recently announced for September 2011. The conference is being held to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the introduction of the EC SEA Directive and the coming into force of the UNECE SEA Protocol. However, it is not only EU-based SEA practitioners that are lookig forward to exchanging their experience; SEA has been evolving as a useful tool around the world, supported not only by national legislation, but also through donor plans and programmes (e.g. Motenegro, Mekong River Basin) that support use of SEA. However, there are also doubts on its effectiveness: does SEA really help to manage environmental change and curb losses of biodiversity and ecoystem services, or is it just a “nice try”? It is the best to seek the answer in person in Prague in Septemeber: I am sure that the presentations and posters will be just the daily basis for creative discussions with some of the best SEA practitioners and wibrant networks knitted  over “veprove kolenky” and some Pils in the lunchtime and the evenings in the city.