More than three billion euro have been poured into Serbia from the European treasury in the last 20 years and with about 200 million euro a year, Serbia is the largest beneficiary of the money from the pre-accession IPA funds for the Western Balkans.
However, all that money is not well spent, probably due to incorrect or unexplained procedures and choices made by the country’s leadership.
From the renovation of bridges, hospitals, schools, fortresses, to various training courses, there are thousands of projects for which EU funds gave money to Serbia since the country embarked on the EU accession process.
“In 2000, we had 64 days without electricity. Since 2001, when we made agreements with the EU on the renewal of the energy system and the reconstruction of thermal power plants, we have rebuilt the energy system after 15 years of uninterrupted use, thanks to donations and loans from the European Investment Bank,” says Gordana Lazarević, a European integration consultant.
An analysis of the Serbian National Bank’s balance of payments clearly shows that out of some 200 million euro from IPA funds, Serbia is using more than 90 per cent of that money, although not all of it yet.
Economist Goran Nikolić says that these are relatively small sums of money, a hundred times less than public spending and not of great importance to Serbia. “The funds that do not end up in the state budget, which through various non-governmental organisations often end up usually in border municipalities to cover the needs of people living in that area, constitute less than 1% of our public spending and 10 times less than the remittances we receive from abroad.”
While Croatia has received about 5,000 euro per capita from the European coffers in the last 7 years, the Western Balkan countries have barely taken about 500 euro. The moment one becomes a member, the money from the European treasury that follows increases at least eightfold.
It should not be forgotten that access to more European funds also means a compulsory membership fee, 1% of a country’s budget, or about half a billion euro. The cost is fixed, so all available funds should be used in such a way that the state, like neighbouring Bulgaria, is not making a loss.
This post is also available in: Italiano