Water utility services and infrastructure are of crucial importance for environmental protection, citizens’ quality of life, as well as the development of tourism and other economic activities in Serbia. The European Union continues to support systemic reform in the water sector to enhance efficiency in providing water services aimed at improving the quality of the environment and the lives of Serbian citizens by improving environmental standards in Serbia in line with the standards and best practices of EU member states. This was noted at the conference where the achieved results of the project “EU Support to Reforms in the Water Sector” over the past two years were presented.

The conference presented a proposal for the reform of the water sector developed during project activities. The results of the project and the upcoming reform in the water sector and the water utility service system are steps towards aligning part of the EU legal framework with the legislation of the Republic of Serbia, which is an important step towards equal membership.

Opening speeches were delivered by Bojan Vranjković, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management, and Antoine Avignon, Program Manager of the EU Delegation to Serbia.

State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management, Bojan Vranjković, expressed great satisfaction with the project results achieved with the financial support of the European Union. He reminded that at the start of the project, water prices across the entire country were quite inconsistent and varied, and in most cases, these prices were not sufficient to cover basic costs and ensure optimal accessibility to services.

“After two years, upon the completion of the project, we can say that comprehensive support has been provided to us in this area, laying the foundations for improving efficiency in providing water services, which will enable harmonization with EU regulations in this area,” emphasized State Secretary Vranjković.

Antoine Avignon, Program Manager of the EU Delegation to Serbia, highlighted that the European Union supported the project to provide quality drinking water for Serbian citizens and to ensure proper water treatment.

“The strength of this project lies in the approach that involved collaboration between the relevant ministry and project experts, representatives of local self-governments, and 20 public utility companies. The project results can be utilized in the next steps of the reform, one of which is the establishment of an Agency for the Regulation of Water Services. Regionalization is also very useful for the modernization of the sector, efficiency, and smart use of resources, and it should be implemented intelligently,” said Avignon.

Comprehensive analyses of the current state in the water utility services sector were conducted within the project, defining priority and long-term measures for sector reform, as well as preparing recommendations for reorganization.

The key element of the new regulatory system is the establishment of an Agency for the Regulation of Water Services. As a legal basis for the new tariff methodology and the introduction of a regulatory system, the project, in collaboration with relevant national institutions and other stakeholders, has prepared a draft proposal for the Law on the Regulation of Prices of Water Utility Services.

The two-day conference was attended by representatives of numerous institutions at the national and local levels, as well as representatives of 20 public utility companies who were awarded certificates of appreciation for their participation in project activities.

With over 580 million euros in grants invested in environmental protection and climate actions in Serbia, the EU is the largest donor in this area in Serbia.

The project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Department for Contracting and Financing of EU Funded Programmes of the Ministry of Finance. The end-beneficiary of the project is the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management – Republic Water Directorate. The project activities are implemented by EPTISA Servicios de Ingenieria S.L. Spain in the consortium with EPTISA Southeast Europe d.o.o. Serbia.

For more information on the project, please visit waterreform.euzatebe.rs.