Greece is an important partner to Serbia in environmental protection, because we live in a common region, and share both the problems and a vision for the future
This year, Serbia and Greece signed a memorandum of cooperation on environmental protection. We talked with the Minister of Environment Goran Trivan what this means for our bilateral relations, as well as about many other issues.“The centuries-old friendship of the Serbian and Greek people, historical and cultural ties, and the strongest bilateral relations so far, are all the basis of our countries’ cooperation in environmental protection. Greece is an important partner to Serbia in environmental protection, because we live in a common region, and share both the problems and a vision for the future. The two countries signing the Memorandum of Understanding in the segment of environmental protection was preceded by important bilateral and regional meetings. Our first visit, after the inception of the Ministry of Environment Protection, was in Greece, when we agreed to boost our co-operation in environmental protection. Following Greece and 20 other countries of South and Southeastern Europe participating in the Ministerial Conference, which we organized late last year in Belgrade, we promoted a new format for this region’s cooperation in environmental protection. Our cooperation was also demonstrated at the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting in Nairobi, when Greece supported and voted in favour of the proposal for Serbia to assume the position of the Vice-President of the United Nations Environment Assembly – UNEA 5. This highest level of environment-related decision-making in the world has created an opportunity for all countries to connect in fighting for the life and future of humanity and all living beings on the planet, and for Serbia and the region to contribute directly by participating in the best global environmental decisions. My colleague and friend, Minister Socrates Famellos’ visit to Serbia in March this year, who led a Greek government and business delegation, was very significant and useful. The two countries signed the Memorandum of Understanding relating to environmental protection and encouraged business people who attended the Serbia-Greece Economic Forum to cooperate in this field. We also agreed to jointly participate in regional, European and global initiatives and to cooperate in the areas such as the circular green economy, waste-water treatment, solid waste management and special waste streams, and in protecting biodiversity and natural resources. Furthermore, we agreed to exchange good practices and innovative solutions, have experts go on study visits, promote technical and scientific cooperation and launch initiatives for various joint projects. At these meetings, which will become regular, we are going to discuss proposals for concrete joint actions and projects, and at the same time, summarize the accomplished results”, says Minister Trivan at the beginning of the interview.
What can Serbia learn from Greece?
– In trying to reach the highest Euro-pean and global environmental standards, it is important for Serbia to skip years of delays and adequately respond to the most urgent environmental pollution issues by applying the best practices and technical and technological solutions. Addressing wastewater and waste management issues and investing in infrastructure projects like construction of sewage treatment plants with sludge lines are a priority. These are important and significant national projects. In preparation of the investment cycle in this segment, hundreds of millions of dinars were allocated to local governments for the rehabilitation and closure of non-sanitary landfills, preparation of technical documentation and preparation for the implementation of investment projects. This was a huge undertaking. As a result, we now have 13 projects ready to be implemented, and there will be 32 more next year. Our first goal is to build 359 sewage treatment systems with a sludge line. It costs about five billion euros. We need about 2 billion to build 26 regional waste management centres. IN terms of big projects, I see the solution in a public-private partnership. I hope that Greek companies will be involved in these activities, in addition to the domestic ones. Greece has the experience, potential and knowledge in this area and they are willing to generously share them with us. Serbia values the significant support that Greece can provide through cooperation in the implementation of projects relating to the construction of wastewater treatment plants and the treatment of waste sludge. We know that Greece has developed and implemented certain solutions in this area that can be of great help to Serbia. The partnership and engagement of professional institutions in the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources through the development of eco-innovation, eco-design, advanced technologies, energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy sources and development of green projects, will be mutually beneficial for improving the environment in the two countries. Greece can be an important partner to us and the driving force behind us obtaining international financial support for the implementation of projects.
As an EU member, how much can Greek support and experience help us?
– It is of great importance for Serbia to develop cooperation with Greece in the field of environmental protection, as Greece is one of the most important EU Member States for us and possesses excellent knowledge of the opportunities in the region. Greece’s experience is valuable for Serbia, which is working hard on preparing to formally submit its negotiating positions regarding Chapter 27 – Environment and Climate Change. Sharing experiences and developing cooperation is of particular importance for Serbia. We need to get acquainted with the positive experiences, but also the challenges and problems that Greece has been facing in environmental protection, earlier, during the accession negotiations phase, and now, as a full-fledged member of the European Union. We believe that, by utilizing valuable knowledge and lessons learned from Greece’s experience, we will ensure that Serbia has an easier path in the process of European integration and in meeting the European environmental standards.
Representatives of 20 Greek companies from the environmental segment visited Belgrade and had meetings with their peers from Serbia. How did those meetings go?
– The aim of the Serbia-Greece Busi-ness Forum, held under the auspices of Greece’s state and business who came to Serbia, was to support investments in environmental protection. This was also a good business opportunity for the Greek business delegation to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia and companies interested in cooperating on the preparation and implementation of capital infrastructure projects in waste and wastewater management and developing recycling, engineering and design projects. The meeting of over 60 representatives of Serbian and Greek companies, which operate in the environmental protection segment, was an excellent opportunity not only to develop economic cooperation but also to think about joint projects that can be implemented in regional and European framework.
You underlined the importance of Greece’s principled position in respect-ing and safeguarding Serbia’s territorial integrity and the status of Kosovo and Metohija based on international law.
– We are grateful to Greece for the support and its stance regarding Serbia in terms of the issue of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as for its firm and friendly attitude based on international law.
How can Serbia cooperate with Greece even more?
– We live in a time of climate change and see the dramatic consequences it causes, we must bear in mind that, according to experts, this region, in which Serbia and Greece are located, will be the worst affected by the effects of extreme weather. There is no doubt that our co-operation will have to go a long way in this direction, as we, together with our Greek friends, are aware that the effects of climate change will impact all aspects of our lives and the future of generations to come. In particular, we will be facing water shortages, food shortages, natural disasters – torrents, droughts, fires – and related to this, a large influx of climate migrants and profound social changes in the region. We will stick together, facing an uncertain future together, as friends do.