As pointed out, the project included the preparation of technical documentation for the sustainable improvement of housing conditions for Roma women in substandard Roma settlements, support to local governments in applying for donor funds and improvement of local mechanisms for inclusion of Roma men through support for existing and forming new mobile teams.
The Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Tomislav Momirović, reminded of the difficult position of the Roma population in the current economic conditions and expressed hope that the project will contribute to the improvement of their position.
“The ministry’s activities were aimed at preparing planning and technical documentation for the construction of social housing for more than 300 Roma families, as well as road and communal infrastructure in 35 local governments in which more than 100 Roma settlements have been identified,” Momirovic told the conference. EU and Serbia for better living conditions of Roma “where the results of the project were presented.
He believes that the message that the Government of Serbia is sending together with European partners is bigger and stronger than that.
“Roma will always be part of this state, our brothers and in the future we owe them our efforts to make them feel like residents of this country who have no problems in communication and life,” Momirovic said.
The head of cooperation of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Nikola Bertolini, assessed that the project showed how important the integration of Roma and other vulnerable groups into society is, and pointed out that the EU is ready to invest in such projects.
He stated that the Roma population “needs houses, decent jobs, education of young people”, adding that “the situation in Serbia on that issue is not great”.
“The percentage of Roma children attending schools in Serbia is too low, which is unacceptable, because education is the first thing an individual has to do to become part of society,” Bertolini said.
He added that it is necessary to increase the participation of Roma in the labor market through their inclusion in active employment measures.
“The EU spends a lot of money on the Roma population and we need the state to be a good partner in the integration process. That is why we use such and similar projects that should change things in the future,” Bertolini said.
Assistant Minister of Finance in the Sector for Contracting and Financing Programs from EU Funds, Marko Jovanović, reminded that since 2017, contracts worth 428 million euros from EU pre-accession funds IPA have been signed.
“We are currently on the signing of contracts from IPA 2018 and IPA 2019, while next year it is planned to sign contracts for funds from the IPA 2020 fund, which brings about 120 million euros,” he said.
He explained that at the beginning there were difficulties, because local governments and ministries needed time to prepare projects and expensive documentation, but this project, as he added, showed that the administration has improved, and that projects are more ready, as well as officials in ministries to lead them.
“The value of this contract was around three million euros, and the entire grant scheme was just under seven million euros. 185 housing facilities were built or reconstructed for more than 700 members of the Roma population,” Jovanovic said.
The Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM), Nikola Tarbuk, said that the association has been advocating for the development of local inclusive policies for all individuals from vulnerable and marginalized groups for years.
“The poorest and most endangered group in Serbia is the Roma community. SKG is trying to help strengthen the capacity of local authorities to respond to the needs of this endangered community,” he said.
He reminded that SCTM and KPMG, which is at the head of the consortium for project implementation, have had continuous cooperation so far, so they cooperated in the development of urban plans and projects, project-technical documentation for communal infrastructure, as well as in the development of operational plans for mobile teams for Roma inclusion.
He added that strengthening the capacity of local governments for further implementation of Roma inclusion policy is high on the list of SCTM priorities and is part of the new strategic plan of the SCTM for the period 2022-2025. years.
The director of the project from KPMG, Aleksandar Bućić, said that the key to the success of the project was the cooperation between the national and local levels of government in Serbia, which has been promoted over the past three years.
“Within this project, our experts prepared 24 urban and planning-technical documents, as well as 82 sets of technical documentation for the social and communal infrastructure of local self-governments,” Bućić specified.
He added that seven new mobile teams for Roma inclusion have been formed within the project.
“Within the framework of mentoring support, a number of activities in the field of improving social protection, education, especially preschool children, as well as health care, were supported,” Bucic said.
The beneficiaries of the project are the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, local governments and the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, and it was implemented by a consortium led by KPMG.
Speaking about the models of good practice in that local self-government, the head of the department for local economic development of the municipality of Boljevac, Jelena Cvetanovaska Kocic, pointed out that the municipality had prepared documentation for PIZ (construction project) for seven buildings at Ilinsko brdo, more than 2.5 kilometers of water supply network in the settlement of Bogovina, and more than half a kilometer of road in the settlements of Bogovina and Gaj.
“A mobile team for the inclusion of Roma men and women has been formed in the municipality of Boljevac, training for team members has been organized and regular work has been supported. Kocic added that she expects the plan to be adopted this month, which will complete the institutional and planning framework for Roma inclusion.
Advisor to the mayor of Novi Sad, Ljiljana Kokovic, stated that there are several Roma settlements in that city, and priority was given to the settlement of Bangladesh, which was created by the intervention of the Center for Social Work in Novi Sad, when 100 families were evicted in one Roma colony.
She added that about 300 inhabitants live in the settlement, of which 70% are beneficiaries of financial social assistance.
“After the analysis of the City Administration for Social and Child Protection, we received a report stating that the entire settlement requires a serious reconstruction with serious financial resources and that it is more expedient to end all violence,” Kokovic said.
She explained that after the approval for Novi Sad to enter the project, technical documentation was prepared for the construction of 56 family houses, technical documentation was prepared for the necessary communal infrastructure in the settlement.
She added that the Public Company “Urbanizam” also prepared a proposal for a plan of general regulation of the settlement of Futog, which envisages a socially responsible solution of a green settlement with a model of typical houses with accompanying content, which includes facilities where joint activities will take place.
The coordinator for Roma issues from the municipality of Odzaci, Andrija Djurić, said that the municipality created a database on the initiative of the Office for Roma Issues, on the basis of which a project task for drafting project-technical documentation was prepared.
“We prepared project technical documentation that was very important for us to apply for the competition announced by the EU, and it is implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), so we got a building permit for all 16 buildings, ie 18 residential unit, “Djuric said.
He added that it was applied for in the competition announced by UNOPS and that the project “Social housing and active inclusion” called “For a better future” was approved, which is still ongoing.
Djuric explained that the project envisages 15 facilities for the Roma population, two facilities for women victims of violence and one housing unit for a local socially endangered family.
Zaklina Gligorijevic, head of the project “Technical Assistance for Improving the Socio-Economic Living Conditions of the Roma Population”, pointed out that 24 planning and urban-technical documents had been prepared and preconditions provided for further improvement of housing and communal infrastructure in 10 substandard Roma settlements.
She also emphasized that the team managed to collect a lot of data on substandard Roma settlements in Serbia due to the preparation of project-technical documentation, and the database is up-to-date and data for more than 100 substandard settlements have been entered.
“Reports have also been prepared on those settlements that will mostly serve the Government of Serbia to apply for future projects and investments to improve conditions in substandard Roma settlements,” said Gligorijevic.
The technical expert who worked on the project, Bratislav Ilić, said that a wide range of typologies of housing and communal infrastructure had been developed.
According to him, there were a lot of technical obstacles, such as property and legal, then waiting for various approvals.
“The development of such a large number of projects would not have been possible if the local self-government with which we cooperated had not had the active work of social services,” he said.
Social affairs expert Irina Slavkovic said that one of the most significant results of the project was “the formation of seven new mobile teams for inclusion in Apatin, Boljevac, Bosilegrad, Vrnjacka Banja, Negotin, Novi Pazar and Silajnac.”
“The situation on the ground was different. In some local governments, inclusion teams were formed, which worked well, while some did not even have the position of coordinator,” she said.
She stated that a set of individual packages was prepared for each of the local governments, which were adjusted to the situation at that time and the medium-term plans for a period of three to five years.
It was also suggested that those dealing with urbanism be included in the mobile teams, in order to improve the work in the field, as well as on future projects.
“Two guides have been prepared, ‘Guidelines for the preparation of expo analysis within the development of local action plans for Roma inclusion’ and ‘Guide for improving the housing of vulnerable categories of the population’,” said Slavković.
She added that mentoring support was done for the preparation of projects for financing from 10 cities and municipalities, six of which were approved for financing.